November 6, 2012

Businesses say grant money allocation could use refinement

The Express-Star

CHICKASHA — In a time when the word “economy” usually tops the chart of conversation starters, the Chickasha Economic Development Council too tops the chart of local political talk.

Recent monetary awards granted by the EDC to a handful of new business owners coming to town has caused some stir with existing business owners. As a result the EDC President and CEO, Christy Elkins wanted to become as “transparent” as possible for the people of Chickasha.

In a lengthy interview, the recently appointed president said that many people around town don’t understand exactly what their non-profit organization is all about.

Elkins said, “The Chickasha Economic Development Council is a non-profit organization that is commissioned to operate as the economic development body of Chickasha.  The board is made up of the Mayor of Chickasha, Chickasha City Manager, a member of the Board of Commissioners of Grady County, President of USAO, Superintendent of Chickasha Public Schools, Assistant Superintendent of Canadian Valley Technology Center, Grady County Industrial Authority Representative, Seven members selected at-large, and the Chamber of Commerce President.”

Elkins said their mission is to work to create a better economy for Chickasha by helping existing businesses grow, attracting new businesses, developing our work

force and assisting to enhance the quality of life of our current and future citizens.

“As the President of the Chickasha EDC it is my responsibility to represent Chickasha at the local, state, and national level, and at times even the international level.  It is also my responsibility to be aware of programs that are available that will be of use by the City of Chickasha, existing business owners, entrepreneurs and new businesses alike,” said Elkins, “Our economy and economic development programs are ever changing, and the way things were done ten years ago are not relevant today.  The Chickasha EDC is in the process of restructuring and developing new programs that will assist our existing businesses to grow and add employees. By building strong partnerships with the City of Chickasha, USAO, Canadian Valley Technology Center, and other local entities we hope to work together as a team to create the best possible business environment for existing businesses and entrepreneurs.”

Elkins said today's economy incentives are an important part of the attraction of business and industry.

“The Chickasha EDC is entrusted with 90 percent of the proceeds of hotel/motel tax, and we take this trust very seriously.  We will work diligently to choose projects to receive incentives that will create the most economic impact within our community.  We have recently been given access to a computer program that will help us analyze capital investment, payroll, and many other factors to determine if a project is worth our consideration, and if so, the level of incentive that will be revenue positive to our community.  As for recent incentives that have been given out, some were given to create infrastructure in an area that required it in order for any business to go in there, not just the restaurant in question.  The improvements will be utilized by all businesses in that location.”

Housing and infrastructure are also very important components to economic development.  

“The energy boom will be quickly affecting our community, I am in the process of working with several companies looking to bring numerous, good paying jobs here. It does not matter how many jobs are created, if we can’t house their employees or provide the infrastructure needed for their businesses it is all for naught.  It is vitally important for people who work in Chickasha to live here and vice versa because sales tax dollars are what fund all of our city and economic development programs.  We want people to not only work here, but also spend their money here so their sales tax dollars fund our street projects, water projects, city services and many other necessary services and programs the City of Chickasha and its residents enjoy.”

The Chickasha EDC is working on a daily basis to build relationships with other entities around the state that can partner with them to provide business intelligence, funding, and other assistance.  

Elkins said, “We are building relationships with leading consultants and site locators to ensure that our community is on the radar with them when projects come in so we can have the best possible opportunity to attract quality jobs to our area. Building a new program takes time, we appreciate the patience and support given to us by citizens of our community and we are working diligently to get these programs put together as quickly as possible.”