By D.E. Smoot
Economic development experts say plans announced Thursday by QuikTrip officials to invest in the Muskogee market should hasten development at the busy intersection of U.S. 69 and Shawnee Bypass.
The Tulsa-based company, ranked by Fortune Magazine as one of the country’s top 100 employers, plans to build a 5,700-square-foot store that combines a travel center that incorporates its third-generation design. A QuikTrip spokesman said if everything goes as planned, the Muskogee store will open during the third quarter of 2014.
City Attorney Roy Tucker said QuikTrip, a privately held company with almost 13,000 employees, purchased the city-owned parcel at cost plus transactional expenses up to $15,000. Members of the city of Muskogee Redevelopment Authority are scheduled to meet during a special meeting Tuesday to ratify the $826,596-plus-costs contract.
Mike Thornbrugh, a QuikTrip spokesman who unveiled the company’s expansion plans Thursday morning, said the Muskogee store will be the second of its kind. QuikTrip built its first travel center prototype in South Carolina.
“We’ve been looking at Muskogee for the past four or five years,” Thornbrugh said. “We take our time. It has to be the right piece of property” to meet the company’s performance expectations.
Muskogee Mayor Bob Coburn, who negotiated the land transaction with QuikTrip officials, said the deal was the culmination of many people “working together toward a single goal.” During a noon luncheon he sponsored in observance of a National Day of Prayer, Coburn thanked his predecessor, Muskogee County commissioners, the City Council and city administrators.
“Regardless of what the lady that said a month ago ... that ... there is no possibility in the world there is going to be a QuikTrip in Muskogee,” Coburn said, “I am here to announce to you today that the QuikTrip in Muskogee will be on the southwest corner of (U.S.) 69 and Shawnee” Bypass.
Since the company was founded in 1958, QuikTrip has grown to become a $10 billion company with 650 stores in 11 states. Its business strategy, as outlined on the company’s website, “is to be the dominant convenience-gasoline retailer in each market and to reach that level ... through key, high-volume locations.”
Thornbrugh said the Muskogee store “will require 16 to 18 employees” when it opens, and other employees may be added later. QuikTrip managers typically earn about $70,000 annually with salaries for assistant managers ranging in the low $40,000 range.
Alisha Tanksley, vice president of chamber and marketing for the Greater Muskogee Area Chamber of Commerce, said efforts to lure QuikTrip back to town began about two and a half years ago. Rickey Hayes of Retail Attractions, an economic development consulting firm with which the chamber contracts, initiated the conversation. Chamber and city officials followed up.
“Two and a half years is still pretty quick to recruit a new retail business — retail development just takes time to see those big results,” Tanksley said. “QuikTrip will give Muskogee a big boost and make development at those other three corners much more attractive.”
Tanksley said there have been discussions with representatives of other companies who have expressed an interest in developing the U.S. 69 and Shawnee Bypass intersection. She declined to share details of those discussions, citing a need for confidentiality.
Thornbrugh said Muskogee may have had QuikTrip storefronts at one time but could have been closed as the company’s business model evolved.
“Throughout the years, we have changed our business model and changed our style,” Thornbrugh said. “We pulled out of smaller communities and focused more on metropolitan areas.”
Now that those urban areas have been built out, Thornbrugh said the company is beginning looking at smaller cities that suit its expansion plans. Muskogee, he said, seemed to be “perfect.”
“We get all kinds of phone calls, emails and letters, and ... not a week that has gone by when we don’t get a request to build a store in Muskogee,” said Thornbrugh, a 19-year QuikTrip employee. “We are coming to Muskogee. The people have been fantastic to work with.”
QuikTrip officials pursued plans about two years ago to buy property in Muskogee at the same intersection, but Thornbrugh said that deal “didn’t work for myriad reasons.”
Pieces of the deal announced Thursday began to fall into place for the company in August after county commissioners initiated efforts establish a fair-market value for the 6-acre tract. The county took title of the parcel about 55 years ago through its power of eminent domain.
After establishing the legal description, commissioners approved a resolution Dec. 31, asking the court to appoint three appraisers. On Jan. 18, the appraisers filed a report with court, setting the value at $4 a square foot, or $1.03 million.
In a letter dated Feb. 22, City Manager Greg Buckley offered to pay $826,596 for the tract, a 20 percent discount from the appraised value. Commissioners accepted the offer about a week later, and city councilors approved the purchase by the Redevelopment Authority.
The city’s purchase was funded by a $1.1 million note issued by the Muskogee Redevelopment Authority and purchased by the City of Muskogee Foundation. The terms of the note provide for a five-year payoff with an annual interest rate of 2.75 percent.
Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or email@example.com.