MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

January 2, 2014

Ward I hopefuls: Business program ‘worth it’

Both candidates say Council has role in economic development

Economic development seems to be the buzzword for Oklahoma towns and cities competing for new businesses.

It’s no different in Muskogee, where city councilors have allocated more than $1.5 million to the Muskogee City-County Port Authority for its business retention and recruitment program. Candidates competing for the Ward I City Council post in the Jan. 14 election believe that investment has “been worth it.”

Incumbent David Jones, who is running for a third term, said the investment has put Muskogee “on the map as a potential location for any business looking to move or to start new.” He praised the port authority’s leadership, saying they have “been very attentive and responsive to the needs of existing industries.”

His challenger, John Lowrimore, agreed with Jones’ assessment of city’s financial support for the port authority’s economic development efforts. Lowrimore said he supports continued funding, which comes from revenue generated by the use tax, which is collected on purchases of out-of-state goods acquired for local use or consumption.

“Yes, I think for the most part the money has been used wisely,” Lowrimore said. “I think once again though, it’s an ongoing process that has to be continued and keep finding ways to make Muskogee a place businesses want to come, too.”

Both Jones and Lowrimore, who competed unsuccessfully for the Ward I post up for election in 2012, said the City Council has a role when it comes to economic development. Jones said councilors have the responsibility to ensure “adequate funds are available to programs that have value.” Lowrimore said the “City Council should play a huge role,” but he offered no further details.

With regard to specific proposals the candidates would offer should they be sworn in next year, Jones said he “would continue to encourage support to the professionals at the port that know what they are doing.” Jones also supports offering incentives to make Muskogee more attractive to businesses.

“The first thing any business asks about when looking at Muskogee to locate is what kind of incentives do we have to offer,” Jones said. “The city, port and (City of Muskogee) Foundation need to come up with some incentives that would make companies looking at Muskogee to locate, or existing companies wanting to expand, a real consideration in their decision process. We need to be competitive.”

Lowrimore, who cited his prowess for “recruiting anything I go after,” placed a little more emphasis on retaining existing companies. He also expressed support for economic incentives to retain and recruit businesses.

“I would keep jobs within first and would recruit to see what would go, what would not, and would push for new businesses to try Muskogee out,” Lowrimore said. “I think we should spend the money we do have as a city and not put off what we can do today.”

Jones and Lowrimore will square off Jan. 14 in the 2014 general election. Registered voters who plan to cast an absentee ballot must apply by Wednesday. This contest is restricted to voters who live within the northeast Muskogee ward.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.

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