Enid Regional Development Alliance practiced rolling out the red carpet this week for a mock visit from a pretend business looking to potentially expand into Enid.
The mock visit was held to better prepare Enid’s community, business, and educational leaders for the real deal, whenever that might be.
“This was actually our first time to practice. Normally we just do it live, and we haven’t done one in a number of years,” ERDA director Lisa Powell said.
It’s an exercise offered by Dallas-based company Site Selection Group, one of several services available.
“Prepared communities win,” Chris Schwinden, senior vice-president of SSG said.
Schwinden filled the role of the visiting business executive. He got the tour of town, heard the sales pitch, met with much of the varied Enid leadership and learned why the small city is the best choice for the business.
“The reason why I’m up here is smaller markets like Enid don’t do site tours with co nsultants or projects every week like they do in Dallas,” Schwinden said. “They don’t get swings at the plate.”
Site Selection Group is a “niche” company, he said. It works with businesses and communities big and small, finding the best places for client companies to move or expand.
There are a lot of factors to consider when finding the ideal fit. He shared a few of the most important at a Thursday ERDA meeting, as well as where Enid exceeds, and where it could improve.
A properly trained and educated workforce is the most important site selection factor, he said.
“I would say that good companies, and the companies any community wants to attract ... having an educated workforce is absolutely important.”
To many companies, this makes Oklahoma less appealing than much of the country.
“The other elephant in the room, and the clients are going to hear about it, talk about it, is funding for education in Oklahoma. That hits home for folks,” he said.
Reflecting on his mock visit of Enid, he said the city performed well. The pitch was not only effective, but upon closer inspection, it was honest. This is not always the case with the communities SSG works with, he said.
The availability of K-12, career tech and university education, give Enid a great deal of appeal, he said, as does the cooperative relationships between each.
“Workforce development is at the top. What are communities doing to train workers now and train workers 5, 10, 20 years down the road? How is a community telling its story in terms of its higher education, its technical training, and its K-12?”
Schwinden added that the increased funding for education in recent legislative sessions are steps in the right direction, and that he “can only encourage that to continue.”
“Folks are looking for a skilled workforce, and they want to move to places where they know there kids are going to get a high quality education,” he said.