The Commerce team visited even more businesses and communities for its Oklahoma Success Tour during the month of September. The team met with dozens of business and community leaders to learn more about the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had across the state.
Executive Director Brent Kisling spent time in Northwest Oklahoma and stopped in Laverne to continue Commerce’s Oklahoma Success Tour. While in Laverne, Kisling attended the Laverne Chamber of Commerce where Kisling spoke to the group. He also a number of businesses in town including C & C Custom Cuts and Coopers R&B.
Kisling was joined in Woodward by Ray Little, Commerce Director of Business Retention & Expansion, where they met with three recipients from the Oklahoma Business Relief Program. The companies included Northwest Eye Associates, Sims, Price & Price PLLC and Al’s Steakhouse.
Continuing his time in Northwest Oklahoma, Kisling joined Stan Ralstin, Commerce Regional Development Specialistin Alva to tour three companies, Value Added Products, Cooperative, Peak Environment and the Rialto Twin Theater.
Value Added Products (VAP) is a farmer/producer-owned dough manufacturer. The company produces various dough products including crafted pizza dough, dinner rolls, pretzels and pastry dough. Like many Oklahoma companies, VAP felt the effects of the COVID pandemic. One of their major customers were school districts for school lunches. With the uncertainty of the in-class schools and lunches, they have started seeking other markets. This kind of forward-thinking helps drive us towards our new normal.
“Time and time again we’ve heard stories from Oklahoma companies about how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their operations and how they have reacted to keep moving forward,” said Kisling. “I am constantly impressed by the way they respond to the unique challenges brought during these difficult times.”
They also visited Peak Environment, the largest landscaping company in Alva and has been in operation since 2016. The company offers mowing, weed control/spraying, landscaping, trimming, privacy fence installation and Christmas light installation.
Their last stop was the Rialto Twin Theater. It is a multigenerational theater which has been passed down in the same family since it was first purchased by Homer Jones in 1929. Today the facility operates three screens, with the large theater seating 400 people and the two smaller theaters seating 100 each.
Kisling, alongside Jennifer Springer, Commerce Director of Business Development, and Glenn Glass, Southeast Oklahoma Regional Development Specialist, toured Teal Jones Lumber, a recipient of the Oklahoma Bounce Back Assistance Program, in Antlers. Teal Jones is a log lumber mill that produces various sizes of lumber made from yellow pine. Teal Jones was a participant in the Bounce Back Program and received $150,000.00. The company plans to use the funding to purchase a molder machine which will allow it to produce a new product line. The company also participated in the Oklahoma Bounce Back Assistance Program.
While in the area, Kisling and Glass also visited with officials from the Choctaw Nation to learn more about the drone test facility the Nation is establishing on a 44,000-acre ranch just east of Stringtown. This site will be a test facility for drones and the Choctaw Nation will be building a flight control center along with testing facilities on the ranch site. Currently, they are working with multiple companies to test drones and their capacity.
While in the area, Kisling also spoke at the Durant Industrial Council.
“Bryan County received 51 grants through Commerce’s Oklahoma Business Relief Program,” said Kisling. “It was important for us to spend time in the community, meeting with businesses, and learning how they’re putting more than $800,000 of relief dollars to work to keep businesses running and Oklahomans employed.”
Kisling and Ralstin spent time at various businesses in Stillwater. Their first stop was Aspen Coffee, Oklahoma’s original craft-coffee. The company has been roasting coffee in small batches for the freshest beans possible since 1994 and has grown to five locations, four in Stillwater and one in Edmond.
Afterwards, they toured Iron Monk Brewing Co., Stillwater’s first and only craft brewery. The brewery was founded by Jerod Millirons and Dave Monks. With more than 30 years of combined brewing experience and a shared entrepreneurial spirit, Millirons and Monks have worked to create exciting, local, handcrafted brews.
Lastly, they stopped by Eskimo Joe’s Promotional Products Group (EJPPG), the company behind the branded Eskimo Joe’s merchandise. But EJPPG goes beyond making Eskimo Joe’s branded items. The company is a marketing company with numerous clients, creating a brand experience through exceptional service and creativity.
Kisling joined Jared Cooper, Northwest Oklahoma Regional Development Specialist, and Joni Nash, Pawhuska Chamber executive, for a visit in to Pawhuska. This time they were in Pawhuska where they met with business owners and managers at the Mariposa boutique, GypsyCowgirl and the Pioneer Woman Mercantile. GypsyCowgirl, a participant in the Oklahoma Business Relief Program, is a retail establishment selling a collection of women’s clothing, children’s clothing, home décor, antiques, beauty, gifts and more. The Pioneer Woman Mercantile, also an OBRP participant, is a destination restaurant, bakery and store owned and operated by Oklahoma’s own Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond and her husband, Ladd. It’s one of the state’s many examples of the renovation and reuse of a historic structure – in this case, the hundred-year-old Osage Mercantile building on Main Street.
Kisling was joined during a portion of his visit by two state legislators — Sen. Bill Coleman and Rep. Ken Luttrell who represent Osage County voters as well as Kay County voters.
Kisling visited Stephens County to check in on local businesses that received funding from the state during the COVID-19 pandemic. From the Manufacturing Reboot Program and the Oklahoma Business Relief Program, both operated by Commerce, 139 applications from Stephens County received funding of more than $2 million to provide relief from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Businesses up for tours in Stephens County included Duncan Machine Products, Southern Machine Works, Rightway Manufacturing, BlackFoot Services and Mowdy Machine.
The tours included members of the Commerce team, the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance and the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology, as well as locally elected state officials like Rep. Marcus McEntire and Sen. Paul Scott.
During his visit, Kisling commented on the response he’s seen from Duncan and Stephens County businesses.
“They have been making very wise decisions here and the local economy is proving that,” Kisling said. “And really, on the state level, I think that’s been proven as well. In February, our unemployment rate was 3.7%, which was low but that was 20th in the nation. Today, we’re 10th in the nation in our unemployment rate so we have catapulted past a number of states.”