MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

November 19, 2011

Land sale rules keep QuikTrip out

The QuikTrip convenience store chain knows that it wants to be in Muskogee. But it could take a while, because land eyed by the Tulsa company is owned by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, its spokesman Mike Thornbrugh said.

“At this point we’ve been unable to secure (the property),” he said. “We’re disappointed. We’re not sure if that particular site is going to be workable. That could put our plans in jeopardy. The biggest hurdle, and I don’t mean this in a demeaning way, is parcels of land that is owned by the Department of Transportation.”

ODOT owns two tracts at U.S. 69 and Shawnee Bypass — one on the northeast corner and one on the northwest corner. The agency put the 2.6-acre and 2.9-acre properties up for bid for “$6 to $7 a square foot” but received no bids, its spokesman David Meuser said. Because the land cannot be sold for less than its appraised value, it must be put out for new bids if a prospective buyer appears. That process could take several months, Meuser said.

Thornbrugh would not confirm which piece of land QuikTrip was pursuing, but he said that location is attractive because of its traffic. ODOT data show that the intersection’s traffic count is 34,300 vehicles per day, making it the second-busiest intersection in Muskogee. Only the one at Main Street and Shawnee Bypass has a higher daily traffic count.

Opening a store elsewhere in Muskogee is doubtful, Thornbrugh said.

“We’re not going to go anywhere unless it will be a good return on investment,” he said. “We’re not going to make foolish purchases on land that’s not worth it.”

QuikTrip Corp. consistently ranks among Fortune magazine’s annual 100 Best Companies to Work For. With $8.77 billion in revenue and nearly 12,000 employees, it is the 33rd biggest private company in the United States, according to Forbes magazine.

“You wouldn’t believe all the phone calls and emails and letters we get from residents of Muskogee who want us to be there, and we’re trying,” Thornbrugh said. “We hear you. We’re trying.”

Lifelong Muskogee resident Sharon Backes, 56, said Muskogee “needs” a QuikTrip.

“Muskogee needs more businesses, and it will bring more jobs,” Backes said. “I’d go there daily. The first place I go on the way to Tulsa is QuikTrip. It’s just a classier type of convenience store. It’s cleaner. I like the atmosphere of QuikTrip and the quality. They just have a wide variety of everything.”

Sue Harris, the president of the Greater Muskogee Area Chamber of Commerce, said QuikTrip is “exactly the type of retailer we’d like to have on that intersection.”

“We’ve always had a lot of people ask for that particular store,” Harris said. “You could just imagine how many would stop if it was there.”

Thornbrugh said QuikTrip also is eyeing a site in Wagoner. He wouldn’t specify where, saying it was “years away from even being developed.”

QuikTrip will continue to work with ODOT in hopes of obtaining the Muskogee property, he said.

“Officials — both city and county — have been great to work with,” Thornbrugh said. “It’s not for lack of effort by QuikTrip and them.

“We’re the eternal optimists. We think it’s a site, that long term, is good for QuikTrip, good for Muskogee, and we hope, good for the Department of Transportation.”

Reach Mike Carrels at (918) 684-2922 or mcarrels@muskogeephoenix.com.

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