Path Home Shows 2015 Show Archive March 2015 Show 1512 David Stewart - MidAmerica “Think Tank” Delivers

David Stewart - MidAmerica “Think Tank” Delivers

Efforts at MidAmerica Industrial Park are bridging the gap between industries and a skilled workforce.
David Stewart - MidAmerica “Think Tank” Delivers

David Stewart - MidAmerica “Think Tank” Delivers

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MidAmerica Industrial Park

David Stewart Interview

Show Details

Show 1512: David Stewart - MidAmerica “Think Tank” Delivers
Air Date: March 22, 2015

 

Transcript

Rob McClendon: Well, Pryor’s MidAmerica Industrial Park is a powerful economic engine for northeastern Oklahoma, not only providing jobs, but helping people get the skills to get hired. I sat down with David Stewart, the park’s chief administrative officer, to learn more about their approach to meeting the needs of both industry and the workforce.

Rob: So Dave, I believe when anyone drives in, they’ll be struck by how sprawling the MidAmerica Industrial Park is.

David Stewart: Yes, it’s actually 10,000 acres, of which about half is still available for development. And that’s really what we’re focused on is bringing companies into that 4,000 acres, creating jobs for this area.

Rob: How has that industrial park, or this industrial park, how has it developed over the years?

Stewart: Well, it was formed in 1960, and strangely enough, it acquired the assets of a black powder munitions plant from World War II, so the infrastructure is very well-developed, and over time we have acquired 80 companies, and 3400 employees come to work here every day.

Rob: And the jobs are very different. I mean, things from Google to a trucking company.

Stewart: Right, very diverse group of companies, and that’s what’s interesting is because we can cater to a wide range of employee type skill set. And as a result we have a lot of different kind of training programs and assets to bring to those companies.

Rob: How important is location?

Stewart: Well, it’s critical. When you look at why companies locate, they locate for workforce, and they locate for location, so distribution, access to highways, transportation. Of course, we’re right next door to Tulsa International Airport. We have an inland waterway. So it’s very critical. When you put all those together, it makes for a unique combination.

Rob: So what makes MidAmerica Industrial Park so unique? What does it offer?

Stewart: Well, really four areas. One is governance. You know we have five trustees, of which I am one, that make all the decisions. We have no zoning, no permitting, and basically five trustees can make those decisions. So at a time when you know permitting and speed saves money, companies look at that very critically, so a very probusiness environment. Second of all, we have all of the infrastructure. We have power, water, waste treatment and plenty of land to offer. Third, we have on-site training. We have Rogers State University with a campus on-site, OSUIT is on-site, and Northeast Tech, part of our careers program, is on-site. So those assets are here available for the companies. Now, how do we deliver those? And that’s the fourth asset that we bring to the table. We bring a collaboration, the ability to collaborate with all of our stakeholders, the superintendents of high schools, the community leaders, representatives from the higher education and educational institution and representatives from business. So when you bring the CEOs to the table, along with those other stakeholders, that is where the competitive work of MidAmerica, I believe, is because when you bring those together and you deliver all of those resources in a way that is directed by the CEOs, that means it’s going to be probusiness. And that is what is unique, and that is what MidAmerica delivers. It is that unique collaboration and group of stakeholders that meet regularly to provide all of these resources, whether it be workforce, legislation, you know, unique legislation needs, anything, those companies can get from the resources of this organization.

Rob: So essentially, shovel-ready, whether it be building something to providing the workforce?

Stewart: Absolutely, including spec buildings that are readily available for companies to move in, and also we have resources and incentives that if a company comes in here with 200 employees, we can actually provide some incentives similar to what the state provides as a third bucket of incentives. So when you add that to the picture, then it really is unique and differentiates us from most other parks.

Rob: How important are skills to meet the job demand that you have here?

Stewart: Well, when you look at why companies locate, there is a lot of research that is done with site locators and such. They locate, you know they have land, they have water, they have power and all of those foundational type assets and resources, but at the end of the day if they don’t have qualified employees, they can’t make money, and they can’t prosper. So we identified that, and so we are focused now on bringing all of the community resources, the assets that we have in such a way that it is very unique, deliberate, aligned, so that those companies, the companies here, can succeed and grow. And so it’s critical, absolutely critical.

Rob: And there is a picture right behind us of a proposed MidAmerica Career Center. Tell us about that.

Stewart: Absolutely. When we strategically, when we looked at the resources that we had and why companies relocate and why they grow and expand and make choices to grow and expand, it turns out that their qualified workforce, having that available is the most critical. So when we look at what we need to bring to those companies, we need to locate, we need to coordinate a process where we can deliver employees, qualified employees, to those companies, we need to evaluate, and we need to educate. So when you look at that process, there is really no one place where that can happen, and that’s where the idea of the career center came up. The career center will provide all of those activities under one roof, a one-stop show if you will. We think it’s going to be unique. We’re under design right now. It’s about a $10 million project, and we’re very excited about what it’s going to provide to the companies here.

Rob: What would you tell the young person or really just tell anyone about the jobs that can be offered here and why they ought to look at something like this?

Stewart: Well, first of all we have to acknowledge that really people here want to stay at home, right? They want to be with their families. I mean, this is rural America, and it’s a great place to live. We have Grand Lake, we have Lake Tenkiller, Eufaula, Gibson, we have the Illinois River, we have the Ozarks, you know, 30 minutes away. So people want to stay here. So how do you do that? Well, you have to have the skill set training that is needed in order to get the jobs that are available. So combining those two and aligning them is what we have to communicate to our, I call them kids because I’m older, but to our kids that are looking for these kinds of opportunities and information. And what we believe is that they just don’t have the information. It exists, but we need to communicate it to them. So I would tell them it’s right here. You can get a great job. In fact, we have jobs today that are available, a wide range of jobs all the way from, you know, plant maintenance to robotics to Google, and you can do, you know, computer work. So whatever you want is here. We just need to find out what you like to do, and then we need to train you and give you skill sets to be productive right here in northeast Oklahoma.

Rob: Now, if you would like to see my entire interview with David Stewart, it is streaming on our website at okhorizon.com.