With many Oklahoma businesses feeling the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, representatives from the Oklahoma Department of Commerce (Commerce) are meeting with companies in communities across the state to discuss the impact of the crisis and offer available assistance. These visits are taking place on behalf of Governor Kevin Stitt as the state implements CARES funding and is working to identify future opportunities for programs to help business recover.
During the second half of July, the Commerce team spent time in Tahlequah, Durant, Oklahoma City, Midwest City, Lawton and Ada. The following is a brief overview of each visit. Many of the companies visited were recipients of some of Commerce’s recent business relief programs.
“The services and programs offered through the Department of Commerce are vast. In times like these, it’s important for us to connect with Oklahoma companies in order to make sure they know what’s available to them and to remind them that Commerce is always available to help in any way possible,” said Brent Kisling, Commer Executive Director. “It was great to get to visit these companies and see how they’re putting dollars received through these programs to use.”
Kisling and Cooper went to Durant to meet with Roll Offs USA and Texoma Manufacturing. Both companies are recipients of the Oklahoma Bounce Back Program, a COVID-related assistance program operated through Commerce. Joining Kisling and Cooper for the tours were Senator David Bullard and Representative Dustin Roberts, in addition to Lisa Taylor, Executive Director of the Durant Industrial Authority.
Roll Offs USA produces waste management containers. The company utilized the funding from the Bounce Back Program to purchase equipment which allowed them to start making in-house some parts that were previously imported from China.
While in Durant, Kisling and Cooper also visited Texoma MFG. The company is primarily a metals manufacturer, but when the pandemic hit began producing sneeze guards. The company is in the process of purchasing a new machine which will enable them to produce clear face masks which will be marketed to hospitals and health clinics.
Kisling and Jared Cooper, Regional Development Specialist visited with two locally owned businesses in Tahlequah, A Bloom Flowers and Gifts and Lift Coffee Bar.
A Bloom Flowers and Gifts is a family-owned and operated florist that offers flower delivery to all of Tahlequah and surrounding cities. The company has been utilizing e-commerce to continue business opportunities during the pandemic, including offering flower arrangement classes through Facebook Live and Zoom.
“As a small business owner, the impact of COVID-19 was definitely felt. But through hard work, adaptability, and a town that supports their local businesses, we reached and even surpassed our sales goals for April, May, and June. E-commerce and social media were vital tools in achieving this,” said Rian Cragar, A Bloom Flowers and Gifts. “Although my involvement with the Tahlequah Main Street Association has made me aware of all of the amazing resources Commerce has to offer, it was a breath of fresh air to hear Brent reiterate all of those benefits. Knowing there is a real person who cares about Oklahoma’s small businesses and seeing them thrive is definitely reassuring.”
Kisling and Cooper also spoke with Justin Guile, co-owner of Lift Coffee Bar, a specialty coffee retailer which offers coffee drinks, teas, energy drinks and smoothies. Like many Oklahoma food retailers, Lift added curbside and delivery services to its offerings to offset the impact of the pandemic. The company also applied for and received a grant through Commerce’s Oklahoma Business Relief Program.
“The grant has been very helpful to our new small business. The lack of assumed customers due to the economic & pandemic conditions really put a halt to the momentum we had in growing the business,” said Guile. “We were just recently voted best coffee shop in the area by the community. We want to continue to provide that same type of product and customer service to the community to meet expectations. This grant will help us continue to provide our brand into the future. Visiting with Brent was insightful and very informative. The assistance and direction provided by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce is greatly appreciated and valuable to Lift Coffee Bar.”
Kisling joined Brandy McIntyre, Commerce Regional Development Specialist, Jennifer Springer, Commerce Director of Business Development, Leslie Blair, Public Information Officer, and Geoff Camp, Commerce Director of Aerospace & Defense, in Lawton where they visited five companies – four of which were recipients of Oklahoma Business Relief Program funds.
The companies included:
- Scott’s House of Flowers, a retail flower shop and OBRP recipient
- Audio Tech, a retail audio visual and IT store and OBRP recipient
- Johnson and Johnson Locksmith and Door, a locksmith company and OBRP recipient
- The Silver Spoon, a local restaurant and OBRP recipient
- TDRS, LLC, for a drone sanitation technology demonstration
They also met with Brad Cooksey and Tiera Cole of the Lawton Fort Sill Economic Development Corporation