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Show 1710: Entrepreneurial Enid
Air Date: March 5, 2017
Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” I’m Rob McClendon. Well, Enid, Oklahoma, has seen its share of setbacks – everything from the loss of a major employer to the ups and downs of agriculture and energy. But through it all, this town of 50,000 in north central Oklahoma has shown a remarkable resiliency thanks to a heaping helping of innovation. Today, we’re gonna focus on some of the lessons that can be learned from Enid, Oklahoma, and with that here’s our Courtney Maye.
Courtney Maye: Enid, Oklahoma. It’s a growing city where mom and pop businesses are strong, yet so are large corporations. So what is the secret to Enid’s successful economy?
Brent Kisling: We’ve done a number of public/private partnerships. And we’ve also tried to make sure our infrastructure is strong.
Courtney: Brent Kisling is the executive director of the Enid Regional Development Alliance, an organization that plays a key role in making decisions about economic development and city expansion.
Kisling: As you step back and you try to market Vance Air Force Base and the Land Run and entrepreneurship and wildcatting out in the oilfield, it really all came back to the word “adventurous.” If you’re a pilot going Mach 1, that’s adventurous. If you’re somebody in the Land Run riding a horse with your hair on fire to stake your claim, that’s, uh, that’s adventurous. If you’re the wildcatter or the entrepreneur that has bet everything on that next hole or that next business, that’s adventurous as well. So now all of our marketing strategy revolves around that word “adventurous.” And we’ve added to that the fact that there are boundless opportunities here, that we’re a very original group of folks here in town, and we have a very vibrant economy and citizenry here.
Courtney: And one local business owner reaping the benefits is Jimmy Stallings, chairman for a local environment engineering company called Envirotech. And he says Enid’s support of new businesses contributes to the success of the city’s economy.
Jimmy Stallings: We have a very inviting business climate, and what I mean by that is from our economic development groups through our city council and all the way through city staff and then you have, um, we’re very pro-business. And while with any municipality we have regulations and rules, we also have some very helpful people that’ll help you, help guide new businesses through some the hurdles. And then on the culture of the business community, we have a group of businesses that recognize if one business succeeds it’s good for everybody.
Courtney: And helping fill the skills gap in Enid is Autry Technology Center. Autry partners with more than 500 businesses to ensure students in its program are trained for the jobs needed to be filled. Autry Superintendent Brady McCullough.
Brady McCullough: I think we have a tremendous impact on the economy, not only are we a big employer impacting the economy itself but supplying the workforce for those businesses that we have here. We have a lot of customized training programs as well as our full-time programs that open up that pipeline of a skilled workforce to many, many companies here in the Enid and northwest Oklahoma area. Another way that we try to stay on the edge of that is with our executive leadership council. We actually meet with over 20 of the largest employers in this area on a monthly basis. During those meetings we talk about issues that those employers face in this area.
Courtney: Martie Oyler is also heavily involved with executive leadership council, and she says it’s the diversity of the companies in Enid that contribute to the city’s continuous expansion.
Martie Oyler: Enid is fortunate in that our growth has been constant and steady, and it’s diverse. We don’t have everything in one area, you know. We have a lot of oil and gas, we have a lot of manufacturing, education, there’s so many, retail is big, you know. Enid is the hub, the retail hub of northwest Oklahoma. We support each other. We play well together, and I think that has certainly been a big part of the success of this community.
Courtney: And helping this city continue to be the hub of northwest Oklahoma.
Oyler: When everyone does well, then the whole community prospers. So if we see the retail area growth, then we know that that has to be supported with business and industry, and we are very, very fortunate to have a chamber of commerce, a city manager, and we also have great educational support here in Enid. And all of that comes together to support the success that we have seen in our community.
Rob: Now, such innovation is nothing new for the town of Enid; in fact, it goes back well before statehood. What began as a family store has grown over the years into the largest privately owned grain company in the state. With five generations of experience, W.B. Johnston Enterprises has expanded to over 20 locations in Texas and Oklahoma. Now, if you’d like to learn more about these agricultural entrepreneurs, I was able to sit down with that family’s patriarch a few years back, and I have that story streaming on our website under our value added section at www.okhorizon.com.