Muskogee officials need to do as much as possible to encourage locally owned businesses to locate downtown.
Many of the 664 respondents to an Action in Muskogee survey say they want new retail, restaurants and entertainment in downtown Muskogee.
City officials should acknowledge the respondents’ requests by offering incentives to locally owned businesses that are willing to move downtown.
It would be great if chain restaurants or bars were willing to move downtown. Respondents suggested Olive Garden and Outback Steakhouse.
But most chain restaurants operate on such a small profit margin that they want the guaranteed traffic that Shawnee Bypass or U.S. 69 offer.
Locally owned businesses are the best answer. They have a built-in following.
City leaders must offer tax incentives or help with needed infrastructure to encourage growth downtown.
The City of Muskogee Foundation could help fund expanded culinary classes at ICTC.
Muskogee also needs to address the Muskogee Civic Center.
The venue needs to be updated and rental rates need to be revised to encourage more concerts or events.
Those events will create the necessary foot traffic for downtown businesses willing to stay open after 5 p.m.
The Civic Center needs a better sound system and improved acoustics to get more concerts.
City officials need to ensure the rental rates are low enough to attract events.
Muskogee will make up for the loss in rental revenue with additional sales tax revenue from bars and restaurants.
A new hotel downtown near the Civic Center would help as well.
The city faces the chicken-and-egg scenario: build businesses or create foot traffic.
Both need to happen. One needs the other for a thriving downtown.
City officials should look hard at what it will take to begin to bring the respondents’ vision into focus.