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June 28, 2002

A couple of unrelated news items caught my attention this week because they both have serious implications for Perry. One of these stories appeared in this newspaper, just last Tuesday. It told about the certification received by the new industrial park on the west side of town and suggested that a new potential for income-producing businesses may be realized there.

The other story that caught my eye was in the Oklahoma Commerce Folio, a publication of the state Department of Commerce. It reported on the selection of Marietta, a small city in south-central Oklahoma, just off I-35 in Love county. We have relatives in Marietta and I know the residents there have been struggling for some time in hopes of landing a new industry for the town. They do have a cookie factory but that is not nearly enough. Now, however, the town has been chosen to become the southwest regional distribution center for Dollar Tree Stores. It will create 125 jobs for Marietta.

That’s good news for the town’s residents. The company is described as “the modern day equivalent of the traditional variety store.” Marietta was selected for the regional center “because of its central location with respect to major population centers in both Oklahoma and Texas and the easy access to I-35.” Dollar Tree is preparing for growth in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Colorado.

If those attributes sound familiar, it’s because Perry has been trying to sell itself on the strength of those same virtues for several years. Here we sit, smack dab on I-35, U.S. 64 and U.S. 77, with major rail freight lines on both north-south and east-west routes, with a modern airport on the north side of town, and we do not seem able to lure something like a regional distribution center to our community. Not that one of those would solve all our economic problems, but something along that line surely would be nice to have.

By sheer coincidence, the same day those two stories came to my attention I also found myself reading a clipping from a copy of this newspaper dated almost exactly eight years ago. The subject was a meeting of the newly revitalized City Planning Commission, with then-Mayor Bud Hollingsworth on hand to help the new group talk about “what-ifs” for this community.

Among the possibilities placed on the table by the group were dreams of a plastics manufacturing plant which could also provide things used by the Charles Machine Works, Inc. in manufacturing Ditch Witch equipment; a wheel manufacturer, also serving CMW and other users; a marshaling yard for cross-country highway freight lines; and even a regional distribution center for Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club stores.

In years past, some local tub-thumpers have suggested other things, none of which really materialized although they provided an opportunity for us to itemize our assets and talk about the great location we occupy for new businesses. We have what some people, like Dollar Tree store executives, are looking for, but thus far we have not been able to attract them to Perry. What’s our problem?