The Ardmore Development Authority hosted the first of its two community forums Wednesday afternoon to a low turnout. But expectations are high for a larger turnout Monday night. The final forum is at 7 p.m. at the Santa Fe Train Depot. Those attending will have the opportunity to find out about ADA's mission and future goals. There will also be an opportunity to have any final questions answered leading to the special election Tuesday for a ¼-cent sales tax renewal to help fund the ADA.
"Some people predicted it would be a low turnout in the middle of the day," said ADA interim president and CEO Brian Carter. "But others felt it was important to have one at this time, and we are happy with it. We wanted to give the opportunity for people to discuss the sales tax. There is Facebook, the website and different events, but the town hall meetings give a chance for folks to come, let their hair down and ask questions."
Questions at the meeting centered on the airpark, providing more education to Ardmore High School students about local opportunities and other related matters.
Mayor Sheryl Ellis provided an introduction for Carter, and stressed the need for the renewal of the sales tax.
"It has been a great success since its inception," Ellis said. She also said it was important not to give a competitive edge to other communities, and it was important to provide opportunities for future generations.
Carter outlined the job of the ADA as the economic sales force for the city as well as the functions of the authority. He also discussed how the mission of the ADA has needed to change since its inception in the 1960s in answer to different challenges starting with the oil bust in the 1980s.
"We have identified the game has changed since the 1980s," Carter said. "Our goal became to build a manufacturing presence, and the new problem is finding labor to support the industries. There are 600 chronically unfilled positions."
Carter said the ADA also faces challenges of maintaining the properties of which it is a steward, which centers on providing infrastructure in an effort to attract industry. He said the ADA receives around $1.25 million yearly from the sales tax, half of which is used to pay for fire and crash rescue workers at the airpark. The tax is also used for marketing and promotion, assisting industry, covering overhead and other costs of doing business.
Carter was asked how much current income comes from oil and gas leases at the airpark. Work is ongoing to bring additional wells online, which will total seven when completed. He said the ADA receives between $300,000 to $500,000 a year. There is a conservative budgeted item for $550,000 in revenue. Carter said based on the first two months, the ADA estimates it will receive $1 million this year. The revenue from the lease must be used for the benefit, enhancement and improvements at the airpark.