Is Lawton Becoming A World-Class Business Destination?
If you weren't aware, there are several groups of people here in Lawton that tirelessly work to not only improve our community, but they're continually working to attract new businesses to our area.
I was peeking around over on YouTube and came across a video I would consider unexpected. It was a short video from the Lawton Fort Sill Economic Development Corporation that detailed how Lawton is "becoming a world-class business destination."
Like you probably did, I raised an eyebrow expecting to hit play and have a laugh at something intentionally aimed at comedy, but the overwhelmingly positive sentiment towards Lawton's business acumen was serious, and it made me think hard about what they were saying.
From the video description:
Lawton-Fort Sill, Oklahoma is rapidly becoming a world-class business destination and is poised to become a global hub for opportunity. Located here in Comanche County, the Lawton region offers a diverse mix of sites and buildings from Class A-certified industrial parks to our commerce center, we can provide a prime business location. We have a modern infrastructure, a skilled and available workforce, and access to higher education that will provide your business with every opportunity to thrive.
I think it's safe to say, the average person living here in Lawton might read that and initially cast it off into the shadow realm of forgotten thoughts and just go about their everyday life. That's also fair as that little paragraph is shockingly heavy.
For as long as I've lived here, the biggest obstacle for real business development has always been rumored to be the local government, specifically the Lawton City Council. That's usually followed up with a few key examples...
Best Buy committed to Lawton, then welshing on the deal when the council continually added new terms to be carried out...
The Fairmont Creamery plan to become a destination full of shops and eateries until the council's terms forced the developer to scrap everything...
Purchasing the mall through a good-ole-boy deal for a wildly-inflated fair-market-price on the premise of filling Sears with contractor jobs, only to see the space requirement was much, much smaller...
Whether the examples ring true or not that's public opinion, and public opinion is usually what is recorded in history. The world goes on and everything stays quiet until the next snafu comes out of city hall... but what if times really are changing in Lawton?
I can't help but take notice of how quick and smooth that rumored Mathis Brothers deal was. By the time most people heard the rumor that the furniture giant was considering our town, the ink on the deal was already dry. City planners have already worked on the irritating infrastructure portion of that deal too, adding yet another poorly placed stoplight to city streets... but at least it comes with a new business and new jobs. Hopefully, new tax revenues will make it along shortly after.
Big conglomerates have made it a habit this century of placing great jobs in places that are so unassuming.
Example: Amazon has corporate jobs and data centers in tiny little towns all over America. Places like Coffeeville, Kansas - Population 9500.
It's in the middle of nowhere, it's not really "close" or "convenient" to any measurable population center or big city, how in the world did they make their town a place where Amazon signed on the dotted line?
Seeing how Lawton fits in the landscape, what is to say we can't eventually do the same thing? What's keeping us from becoming a world-class business development town?
Sure, there are areas of the main throughways that could use a lot of fixing up. I mean, a lot of fixing up... but it wouldn't be impossible. Perhaps if the city offered a tax incentive for updating facades and outward structures.
Look at 2nd Street downtown... It's a really attractive hodge-podge of shopping and service outlets, eateries, a Hilton, and a few dollar stores. Maybe we can kick that area's development back into high gear, finally fixing up the other side of the street where old, run-down, out-of-businesses still reside. Aim to do the same up and down Cache, Gore, Sheridan, 11th/FSBLVD, Lee, etc...
The more I think about it, the more I think this is really something Lawton can do. But if we want to be a world-class business development town, we have to dress for the job we want. Time to ditch the tuxedo t-shirt that is the current inspiration of those that own the business fronts, it's time to slide into something a little nicer, something that says "We mean business." If Coffeeville, Kansas can do it there's no reason we can't.