The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 17, 2013

Guest column: Enid in need of more optimists

By Brent Kisling
Enid News & Eagle

— What is your point of view? Are you an optimist or a pessimist?

The pessimist remembers the loss to K-State instead of the win at KU. The pessimist notices the squeaky front door instead of remembering the warm home. The pessimist hates vegetables instead of loving a full stomach.

The pessimist is “concerned” about the prosperity in Enid instead of relishing the unprecedented wealth in our community right now. The pessimist remembers the ’80s and is waiting for the bust to happen instead of noticing that oil is not the only thing driving the economy in northwest Oklahoma today. The pessimist will always cling to the status quo instead of dreaming of what we can become.

I would rather be an optimist — and I think most of the residents of Enid feel the same way right now. Enid collected the most sales tax revenue we have ever collected in 2011 — and then we beat that by 13 percent in 2012.

We are continuing to grow as a community. We have the fastest-growing school district in the state, 5 percent job growth in the past 12 months, and the census bureau has already estimated that our population within the city limits of Enid has growth by over 3,000 people (from 49,000 to 52,000) since the official count in 2010.

We’ve seen growth announcements from AdvancePierre Foods, GEFCO, Central Machine and Tool, Mid Continent Packaging, Triangle Insurance, Wymer Brownlee, and Aircraft Structures International in the past few months, just to name a few. These are not companies that will pick up and leave town if the drilling slows down north of town. These are companies that have been here for decades, and will continue to drive our economy for years to come.

Still, we should keep an eye on the oil play. Most of the leases in Woods, Alfalfa, and Grant counties will expire in 2015 and 2016. At that point, some of the drilling may start to spill over into Kansas, which is still an area serviceable by the companies out of Enid. Many of the larger oil and gas service companies that are coming to town today (and they are still coming) are buying land and building buildings. They intend to be here for many years to come and continue to contribute greatly to the local economy. Horizontal wells require much more long-term maintenance than the traditional vertical wells, which makes this play much different than what we remember from the ’80s.

Finally, even if the drilling begins to slow down over the next 5 years, the pump jacks will most likely continue to pump out royalty checks for land owners in our region. Those checks make their way to businesses that don’t typically consider themselves oil and gas, but the money still spends the same.

As the eternal optimist, I want to think of this as a new era of economic prosperity rather than a fad that will come and go. If we play our cards right as a community, we can use this golden age as a springboard rather than a hammock. Of course, that will depend on your point of view.

Kisling is executive director of Enid Regional Development Alliance.