Q&A - August 16, 2015

Every successful enterprise and business has a good working knowledge of their assets and liabilities. As they plan for their success, they find ways to accentuate their assets and build upon them while minimizing their liabilities and preventing them from becoming distractions.

This week, I would like to weigh the assets and liabilities of our community as I respond to the following two questions:

Q: What are the biggest challenges facing Okmulgee?

Every community has its challenges, and Okmulgee is no different. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with several community leaders and discuss this very topic. We came up with a rather lengthy list of challenges but identified the following eight areas as being the most persistent: 1) low median income levels and cycle of poverty; 2) detractors and negativity within the community; 3) bad reputation and negative perceptions; 4) rundown properties and poor first impression of the community; 5) generational apathy and lack of community pride; 6) lack of community commitment to the public school system; 7) lack of communication within the community; and 8) lack of cooperation and infighting between entities operating within the community.

By my count, at least five of the eight challenges facing Okmulgee have to do with perceptions and attitudes. So it would seem to me that the real challenge in front of us will not be rehabbing a building or a street but rehabbing public opinion about our community. I understand that it is not a wise use of time or energy to try to appease the concerns of cynics and naysayers because there will always be some people who will criticize any endeavor. But we must find ways to change our liabilities into assets—our detractors into advocates.

Q: What are Okmulgee’s strongest assets?

As the discussion with community leaders continued, we agreed that the list of community strengths far outweighed its weaknesses. Here are a few examples of the assets we listed: 1) Okmulgee’s higher education entities; 2) the Muscogee (Creek) Nation; 3) downtown Okmulgee and the #OkmulgeeRising campaign; 4) our geographic location and access to transportation; 5) our historical roots as a diversified community; 6) our lake system and potential for tourism; 7) the availability and affordability of land; 8) the potential for new retail and industry; and 9) the friendly and giving nature of our citizens.

As I stated previously, all successful organizations are able to capitalize on their assets and overcome their liabilities, and the same will be true of Okmulgee. It serves no purpose to dwell on problems that we cannot solve. We should instead focus on areas that we can improve. Okmulgee has been a great town, and many of us are convinced that it can be great once again. Cynical attitudes within our community as well as negative perceptions from outside our community will change when we change our community.

If you have more thought-provoking questions like these, I would love to respond to them. Please send them to me at osuit-president@okstate.edu.