Q&A - June 7, 2015

Something very special is happening in Okmulgee right now. As a resident, I’m optimistic about the future of our city and encouraged by the Okmulgee Rising sentiment. I am also mindful that residents have high hopes and expectations that this revitalization movement will be more than a passing trend or fantastic whim.

We all want to see sustainable growth and improvements within our community. And I believe we all realize that this will require unprecedented collaboration and investment by many organizations, large and small, and individuals from every walk of life.

As President of OSU Institute of Technology, I want you to know that this university is committed to Okmulgee. It’s our home, and we are proud of that fact. Our interest in the well-being of this community goes far beyond the purchase of a couple of buildings downtown, so I wanted a forum by which I could answer questions about our actions and our intentions.

This week, I’m going to begin with a question that is frequently asked:

Q: Why invest funding into old, dilapidated buildings downtown when you could just build a brand new facility on your campus?

Many people have mischaracterized this project as simply being a student housing project, and if that were true, I admit, it would be a pretty illogical one at face value—relatively high initial cost per bed, low number of students served, logistical complications, etc. But what these people fail to understand is that this was never simply a student housing project, this is a community revitalization project that uses the university’s need for student housing as a catalyst for fundamental change. It serves the twofold purpose of meeting a need for student housing while literally rebuilding vacant buildings downtown.

Okmulgee has far too many symbols of decline—it needs a symbol of recovery. Plainly put, if Okmulgee continues to fall into decline, OSUIT will not long survive. We can’t expect potential students to ignore the unkempt and abandoned properties and to overlook the general depressed appearance of the town around us. In order to convince students to stay in town on weekends, they also need to have a vested interest in their home away from home. Through our extension of services downtown, we hope to inspire other investors to provide additional entertainment and retail options that will generate new revenue streams and benefit the overall economy.