By Chris Day
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Every economic development project — large or small — is a victory if it adds jobs, payroll and stability to your city, Eric Miller said.
Miller recently moved to Stillwater from South Carolina. He started his new role as the Stillwater Chamber of Commerce’s Director of Economic Development Monday.
He holds an undergraduate degree in criminal justice with a minor in political science and law degree from the University of South Carolina. He started his professional career in banking. He became a sports agent, primarily representing college basketball coaches before moving into the economic development field. He worked for the South Carolina Department of Commerce, and was director of business development for a regional economic development marketing and branding firm in upstate South Carolina.
“All in all, I’ve had about a 13-year career in economic development in the state and regional level in a business development mode and a project management role,” Miller said.
His family hails from the Carolinas — North and South, but supported his decision to come to Stillwater.
Miller sat down with the Stillwater NewsPress last week. He discussed his commitment to his alma mater — the University of South Carolina, fondness for college athletics and golf, career path, decision to join the Stillwater Chamber and his initial impressions of the chamber and Stillwater.
Here are highlights from that interview.
In your economic development career, do you have a project you consider your biggest success?
“When I get asked that question, a lot of times people are looking for what is the big name company, but by and large most of the opportunities that I worked with, and I think this typifies a lot of economic development officials that work on the business recruitment side, it’s more of the small and medium size companies that you work with versus the larger ones that you land. The impact to me is just as important and significant from the small companies as it is the large ones. I could cite names of big companies that I worked with — names that you would know — but for me every project is a good project and is a great project when it lands in the community because it has the same impact on the community and the citizens as does a large one. I really don’t have anything I call my greatest success. Every victory is a success. That is the way I look at it.”
What made you decide to come to Stillwater? What are the opportunities you see here?
“... What struck me the most during my final interview was the panel of folks that I met during the interview. ... The message inherent in that process to me was how invested the community leadership is in economic development and advancing this community and improving the quality of life for the citizens of Stillwater. That spoke volumes to me. ... I saw the makings of the characteristics that have been successful in other communities here in Stillwater. So, my question was why not? ... What really impressed me even before I got here and had a lot to do with my decision to have the final interview was ... the passion the president of the Chamber, Lisa (Navrkal), conveyed in our conversation. She has a real passion for this community. She has a vision. ... It was all about leadership. I didn’t really look at the community as it is. I looked at it through the prism of what it could be. ... That represents opportunity to me.”
What does a city need to have to successfully recruit business and industry?
“Leadership and vision. ...”
What are your first steps in this new job?
“There are a myriad of things I need to do. I’ve got to know the community, come to know the product, come to know the players, come to know the people. That’s not just here in Stillwater, but I need to do the same with our regional partners in Oklahoma City. I need to immerse myself in all things Stillwater and, to the extent that they are relevant, all things Oklahoma. I also have to deal with the issues and projects that have taken place before I got here.”
What makes Eric Miller — Eric Miller?
“I wake up every day constantly aware of doing things to improve and taking measures to improve upon the person I was the day previous. I always try to be better on this day than I was the previous day.”