Week of May 19, 2003
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by ADAM BRUNS, Site Selection Managing Editor
ARDMORE, OKLA. Wes Stucky, president and CEO of the Ardmore Development Authority (www.ardmore.org) in Carter County, Okla., is usually hustling to attract business. But his community attracted more attention than it bargained for in mid-May, when some quick-witted Texas Democrats decided that Ardmore was the ideal getaway spot from a redistricting proposal being advanced by their Republican adversaries in the state capital of Austin. The brazen maneuver succeeded in killing the redistricting bill, which would have created more Republican seats, just two years after the districts were redrawn.
Texas state troopers were sent to round up the legislators, but ran out of jurisdiction. For a week, the 51 Democrats hunkered down in this city of 24,000 that likes to boast of its market connections to the Texas economy, but not usually to its political system. Nonetheless, the fugitive Democrats unintentionally underscored Ardmore's economic development pitch.
"Hey, our marketing theme is 'Dallas is Coming Our Way'," Stucky tells Site Selection. "Glad to know they have some politicians who recognize that."
"We've weathered some troopers; we've weathered a tornado, and we weathered Denny's," Democrat Jim Dunnum told the Associated Press.
Michelin, Ryder, Best Buy among
"The politicians were a little wary of going out in a big group," reports Stucky. "A few ventured out for fine dining at Fireside Grill next to Lake Murray, some went for the funky at Aub's Two Frogs Grill, and some, of course, wanted real BBQ, which they found at Budro's."
But if the Democrats had looked for corporate facilities, they would've found a bundle in Ardmore.
The area boasts corporate presences that include Michelin North America, Ryder Systems and energy company Samedan/Noble Affiliates, as well as major distribution centers for Circuit City and Best Buy. Its sense of community is enhanced by five major foundations and endowments, which helped get it ranked as one of the "50 Best Towns in America" in the similarly named book written by Hugh Bayless in 1984.
Ardmore had plenty of tumult to deal with before the on-the-lam Texas lawmakers arrived. The community was trying to recover from power outages from the spate of tornados and severe weather that stubbornly held on during the same week on the calendar that eight years ago produced devastating tornado damage. But Ardmore was mostly spared this time around, Stucky says.
IMTEC Continuing Area's ExpansionWhich left plenty of time for the media storm - and for some laughter.
Asked if the citizens of Ardmore were taking all the attention with a sense of humor, Stucky says, "Oh, yes. It's always fun to laugh at Texas. We get to do it every year for the big OU-Texas football game. And we get to do it fairly often when competing for industry."
The area does, in fact, have a stellar business-attraction track record. The Ardmore Development Authority has twice been selected among the Top Economic Development groups by Site Selection, first in 1994 and then again in 1999.
And area expansion is continuing apace.
On May 19, for example, construction began on a new 600,000-sq.-ft. (55,740-sq.-m.) distribution center for Best Buy, and the first phase of Michelin's planned US$200-million expansion is nearly complete. Noble Foundation is completing LabLink, a $20-million state-of-the-art research laboratory. And IMTEC, a dental implant and medical devices manufacturer, is planning on expanding locally after finalizing the opening of two operations in Europe and one in Canada. The area also boasts four industrial parks with about 1,200 acres (486 hectares) of land awaiting development.
Numerous office and industrial facilities are also available, as well some strong quality-of-life attractions. For example, in a state usually thought of as arid, Ardmore is surrounded by seven lakes
Moving in California's Governor, Too?Apparently, though, the visiting Texans made no queries about establishing a regional headquarters in the area.
One California resident, however, did offer a novel idea on enlarging the renegade political presence in Ardmore. Sarah Turner of Humboldt County, Calif., wrote in a letter to the editor of the local paper, The Ardmorite, "May we send our governor, Gray Davis, to join the 'state officials in exile.' Please?"
Not likely, Ms. Turner. Companies, on the other hand, are continuing to send their facilities to the Ardmore area. Stucky and his colleagues, for example, have helped attract and develop a 633,000-sq.-ft. (58,806-sq.-m.), $40-million distribution center and redundant computer facility for Virginia-based Dollar Tree Stores in nearby Marietta, scheduled to begin operations this spring. Company officials cited access to Interstate 35 and to markets in both Texas and Oklahoma as major criteria, adding that the passage of state right-to-work legislation was also important.
Now, though, the 51 Texas Democrats (who've now returned to Austin to make their own state's legislation) have added another distinction to the Sooner State.
They made Oklahoma a right-to-lurk state as well.
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