The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 9, 2013

Blazing a trail

Fairview takes advantage of oil boom to shore up its economy

By James Neal, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Major County currently is enjoying a boom in its economic development, thanks in large part to the county’s central location for oil and gas activity in the Mississippi and Woodford oil plays.

While new drilling has remained slow in Major County, the county has become a central staging area for service companies working in Alfalfa, Woods and Grant counties to the north, and Blaine County to the south.

Oil field service yards that were abandoned in 2009-10 have reached capacity again, often under new ownership or new leases for new service companies that have been attracted to the area.

Fairview City Manager Paul Southwick said formerly vacant service yards and Fairview Industrial Park are full of oil field service companies, most of which are staging in Fairview and working in surrounding counties.

Southwick said having all of those new workers in town is boosting the city’s sales tax revenues.

“They’re not long-term businesses that are going to be here forever, but for five, six years ... they are driving growth in our sales tax income,” Southwick said.

The presence of Oil field service crews also is driving high occupancy rates in Fairview motels.

Southwick said local rooms “stay pretty-well full,” and the city is exploring a development agreement to build a 50-room hotel at 722 N. Main, near the Main and State intersection downtown.

Southwick said the city is “still negotiating but getting very close” on a development agreement, and he hopes to have the development under way by June.

Major County Economic Development Corp. also is taking extra steps to capitalize on the increased economic activity.

The MCEDC business incubator currently is operating at full capacity, with four businesses occupying incubator space.

Current businesses in the incubator program are Gloss Mountain Homes, From the Woods BBQ Sauce and Pickles, LearningRx of Northwest Oklahoma and John’s Farm Organic Whole Wheat and Beef Products.

MCEDC office manager JaNae Barnard said MCEDC staff also works with businesses throughout the county to provide help with business plans, financing, marketing, accounting and legal questions.

Barnard said Fairview and Major County businesses are receiving increased exposure from an electronic billboard placed in 2011 at the U.S. 412 and Oklahoma 8 junction in Orienta, north of Fairview.

The billboard offers 24 rotating advertisements, and Barnard said MCEDC has a waiting list for businesses wishing to advertise on the billboard.

MCEDC Chairman Mark Stubsten said demand has been so high for incubator space and business development services, MCEDC is in the process of building a new spec building to house additional business expansion in the industrial park.

Start of construction on the 3,400 square-foot spec building was delayed by the Feb. 25 blizzard.

“That spec building has been brought about by a tremendous amount of interest in the industrial park by a number of companies that came into this area because of the oil and gas industry,” Stubsten said.

MCEDC also is pursuing construction of a new duplex to help meet housing demand in the community.

Stubsten said that project is in the initial planning stages but likely would involve MCEDC building the duplex and selling it to a property manager.

“We don’t want to go into the housing business, and we don’t want to go into the rental business,” Stubsten said, “but we do want to help address the housing issue, because that is an area where we’re always in short supply.”

Stubsten said MCEDC also has extended its partnership with the city of Fairview, Fairview Chamber of Commerce, Fairview Savings & Loan and Farmers & Merchants Bank to offer the Fairview store-front improvement contest.

The partner entities put up $11,000 last year to promote improvements to downtown business fronts.

The results of the first contest were:

• First place, $5,000: CJ’s Country Store.

• Second place, $3,000: Sage Brush Junction.

• Third place, $2,000: Quick Rent to Own.

• Honorable mention, $500 each, Tin Lion Coffee House and Vine and Branches.

Stubsten said response was so good for the first contest, the sponsors have donated an equal amount of money to extend the contest to 2013.

He said improving the aesthetics of Fairview’s downtown is important to the city’s efforts to bring in more shoppers and tax revenue.

“If people drive through and everything is decaying and going south, we basically lose our tax base,” Stubsten said. “We find that people like to shop in a community where it looks like something is going on and things are freshened up and clean.”

He said creating an attractive downtown shopping scene is essential to keeping shoppers’ money in town, and to attracting visitors.

MCEDC also is working to attract tourism to Major County through partnerships with Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department and improvements to Gloss Mountain State Park, northwest of Fairview on U.S. 412.

MCEDC and Gloss Mountain Conservancy have undertaken several improvements in recent years at the park, including addition of trails and covered picnic pavilions. The conservancy is working on plans to add electric service and an ADA accessible restroom at the park.

Stubsten said the improvements have led to “tremendous growth in the number of visitors” at the park, and helped increase the tourism draw of the entire county.

The park and Major County also gained some extra exposure this year when OTRD selected Gloss Mountains as the cover photo for the annual state visitors’ guide.

“By doing some different things to improve the park we’ve seen tremendous growth in tourism, and that facility is becoming more and more widely known all the time,” Stubsten said.

For information on events, attractions and economic development in Major County go to www.ok majordev.org.