Stillwater News Press

Opinion

May 6, 2009

Plant worth investment

For the past 16 to 18 months Oklahoma, and Stillwater in particular, have risen above the harsh realities of a global economic downturn.

Sales tax revenues stayed strong indicating consumer confidence in the retail sector of our economy. Housing markets continued to expand with the price of housing rising and continued new housing starts.

Unemployment remained low while commercial development and investment in Stillwater grew at a remarkable pace.

As we moved into the last half of 2008 we began to see the recession take its toll on Stillwater. Decisions were made at the corporate level to close retail stores that were doing quite well in the local markets.

Hardest hit were those business and industries engaging in the manufacture and sale of large ticket items dependent on purchasing decisions based on discretionary income and credit availability. Most noticeably, Stillwater’s Mercruiser plant took an economic hit unprecedented in the plant’s 35-year history in Stillwater.

Following a round of employee layoffs last year, Mercruiser and the Stillwater Chamber of Commerce entered into discussions regarding the future of Stillwater’s Mercruiser plant. Several issues were identified for action and as a result the chamber worked with the Oklahoma Department of Commerce and the city of Stillwater to provide some solutions to keeping the Stillwater Mercruiser plant viable.

Unlike many communities that we compete against in the economic development arena, Stillwater does not have a multi-million dollar war chest of incentive money that it can throw at companies.

What we do have is a pro business approach combined with a willing environment to be innovative in our incentive approach. As part of an effort to maintain and strengthen Mercruiser’s presence in Stillwater the Stillwater Industrial Foundation infused nearly $1 million into Mercruiser with the purchase of excess land from Mercruiser. It was a win- win situation.

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