Passing the torch: Longtime Chamber President Mita Bates looks back at 18 years in position

Drew Butler
The Daily Ardmoreite
Mita Bates, IOM, CCE

At the end of the day on Friday, Mita Bates, President and CEO of the Ardmore Chamber of Commerce, the Ardmore Development Authority and the Ardmore Tourism Authority, will be retiring after over 18 years on the job. Her tenure has seen tremendous growth both within the city and at the Ardmore Industrial Airpark. She expects this growth to continue into the future.

Bates said her first project after taking on the job in November 2003 was seeing to the construction and opening of the Ardmore Convention Center. The project remains close to her heart to this day, and she believes it helped to get the ball rolling on the many new developments in the area that have opened in the intervening years.

"The first week I was on the job, I got handed a set of blueprints and was told this was going to be our new convention center, get it built," Bates said. "When you think back to 2003, Rockford Road was only two lanes, and didn't even go all the way through to Veterans Boulevard. The convention center anchored some of the development in the area, and now we see all the wonderful things up and down Rockford Road and along 12th Avenue."

She is also proud of the many new developments at the Airpark.

"The growth at the Airpark has been incredible," she said. "It's great to be able to brag that we have the largest Dollar General Distribution Center in their network, and they added the new fresh facility earlier this year. It's also been great to watching EJ and King Aerospace expand their capacity. With the GTIP last summer and the H2OK project we just announced, things are only going to continue to expand."

She said the new green hydrogen facility will be important not only for Ardmore, but for the entire state.

"This is a game changer," Bates said. "There are other hydrogen processing facilities, but the tech that's going to be involved here is going to be state of the art —and we will be the only one in Oklahoma or North Texas currently using that technology. Over the next 5 years the investment is going to be incredible, and we are going to see many positive things come from that."

While she is proud of her work, she said she could not have done it without her staff, the boards in charge of the organizations, and a strong partnership with the City of Ardmore.

"One person cannot do it alone because it takes the team effort of your boards and staff," she said. "We've had and continue to have great boards that are committed to the betterment of Ardmore and realize it's not about personal agendas; it's about what's best for the community. I've also been fortunate to have a great staff who are always there to roll up their sleeves and do what needs to be done.

"The city has also been an incredible partner, and we have a wonderful relationship that's been forged over the years. We work very closely together and support each other."

While Bates last day in the position of President and CEO will be on Friday, she plans to remain in Ardmore and continue to help out as needed. In fact, she already has meetings scheduled for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.

"This just allows me to have flexibility," Bates said. "I have grandchildren who don't live here, so I'll be able to see them more often now. But I'll be here to assist with the Airpark as needed, and I'll still be here to help with the transition."

That said, she has every confidence in her replacement, Bill Murphy.

"Bill is going to do a great job," she se said. "He's got the right experience and the right team in place to continue all the success."