By Robert Barron
DURANT — Tommy Kramer says he doesn’t know how he does it. But he must be doing something right, because Durant is one of the fastest growing towns in the United States.
The book “Boom Town USA” lists the top 100 towns in the United States in terms of job growth, and Durant is one of only two in Oklahoma. The other is Guymon, which has benefitted from hog producer Seaboard Farms.
Kramer is a chemist and biologist who retired nine years ago as vice president of J.C. Potter Meat Co. He planned to sit back and take care of his cattle until the mayor, city manager and other community leaders approached him about working on economic development. Kramer took the job and started out in a broom closet in the back of the Durant Chamber of Commerce building. Durant Industrial Authority is supported by a sales tax approved by city voters. At a quarter-cent per year, the fund brings in about $700,000 annually, he said.
Outpacing the competition
In the past five years, employment in Bryan County has increased more than 14 percent, outpacing other micropolitan areas around the state. The state employment average for micropolitan areas, those areas outside the Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Lawton metropolitan areas but still not classified as rural, is 4 percent. Statewide job growth is just more than 2 percent. The rate in rural areas in the state is minus 2 percent.
Kramer said many businesses have come to Durant from Texas, which is only a few miles away, because it is cheaper to do business in Oklahoma. One thing that has helped is an end-of-year inventory tax that has driven some businesses from Texas, he said.
“The land is cheaper, utilities are cheaper and taxes are a third,” Kramer said of Oklahoma over Texas.
One new Durant business is American Heritage Equine, which makes products for horses and riders. Mike Sall, co-owner of the business, said his partner moved the operation from Van Alstyne, Texas, partly because of the tax situation in Texas. He purchased 15 acres in one of Durant’s five industrial parks and manufactures and distributes his products from there. A leather-working business soon will come in next to American Equine, which will support that business. Sall mentioned the business to Kramer, who contacted officials there and convinced them they needed to locate in Durant.
‘It all boils down to capital’
Kramer said Ardmore is the leading economic developing community in the state. Another hot spot in the state recently is Woodward, he said, with oil, gas and wind businesses. However, statistically, Durant leads the state in job growth from 2000-2005. He credits “Team Durant,” a group of local business leaders and city officials who compose the economic development team that brings new industry to Durant. When a project comes along, he puts the right people in place to support that project or business.
Money is usually an important factor, and Kramer tries to identify obstacles as soon as possible. If there are limited funds, he tries to work with the company to alleviate the problems.
“It all boils down to capital. There must a capital justification for any business to locate in Durant,” he said. “We find out early where we are from a capital standpoint and whether it can fit Durant. Sometimes the financial requirements are so great it won’t work.”
A TIF for a tat
Durant has done one tax increment financing project (TIF) and that worked very well, he said. Kramer would recommend that approach for the right project.
The largest capital investment in Durant, for Cardinal Glass Co.,was done by TIF. He said it appears the project will be paid for in about half the time expected.
Cardinal Glass Co. is a $120 million investment.
The plant is 600,000 square feet and manufactures 650 tons of window glass daily. It has 290 employees and operates on a 24-hour basis.
A TIF district establishes an area in which increased ad valorem taxes will be delayed for a specific period of time. Funds are used to help defray construction costs of the improvement. In the meantime, tax-receiving agencies continue to receive taxes at the current ad valorem rate. At the end of the TIF district time, normal ad valorem taxes are paid out.
Kramer is the first full-time economic development director Durant has had. Five-year city sales tax growth is 8.85 percent, adding more than $100,000 per month over 10 years. Durant has a pull factor from the surrounding area of 2.1 times its population. In 1996, Bryan County had a total labor force of 14,525 with 4.8 percent unemployment. In 2006, the labor force totaled 20,609 with an unemployment rate of 3 percent.
“We have created over 5,600 jobs in the last five years,” he said.
In the past nine years Kramer said there never has been a dissenting vote in DIA, meetings, city council meetings or zoning authority meetings.
By Robert Barron
- Local news
Rain changing to snow the forecast for tonight
Mike Honigsberg, Enid and Garfield County certified emergency management director said most of next week would be clear but to expect snow tonight.
Quake centered 27 miles northeast of Enid
The depth of the temblor was about 3 miles, according to USGS.
YMCA reaches funding goal — and then some
This year’s campaign, led by Cathy Stocker and Peter Dillingham, raised $151,320 and added 118 new members to the Y. The goal was to raise $140,000.
Taking Abbie in the ring
Goat show draws 179 entries at NW District Junior Livestock Show
Woman charged with meth trafficking
Reyes faces four years to life in prison and a fine of $25,000 to $200,000 on the trafficking charge.
- Frontier Festival decoration preparations set at CSRHC
- Garfield County Genealogists to meet Saturday
- Book clearance sale continues at Enid library
- Portion of Chestnut to close next week for work
- Legion to host pre-St. Patrick’s Day meal
- More Local news Headlines
- Rain changing to snow the forecast for tonight