Court Newkirk makes return to Okmulgee as OADC director

By DEAN CRAIG

Okmulgee Lions

After learning on Friday that Tuesday's Okmulgee Lions Club scheduled program was not able to keep their commitment, it would have been easy for the "panic button" to set in.  But not to worry when you have people like Court Newkirk willing to step up to the plate to pinch-hit, and hit it out of the park.  If that name sounds familiar, it should, because he served as our Chamber of Commerce Director from 1990-'94.  He returns to Okmulgee as the Director of the Okmulgee Area Development Corporation, succeeding Dr. Bob Klabenes, who has retired (again).  In fact, Newkirk told the Lions that he has also been retired from the City of Broken Arrow for the past five years, but Okmulgee is the only city where he has worked that he would even consider returning to work.  And that is because of the people, and the way he was accepted and treated by the people of Okmulgee.  So, give yourselves a pat on the back.

I can agree with Newkirk on this issue because I, too, am a resident of Okmulgee because of choice, not chance, and it is for the same reason--the people. In fact, Newkirk and I both were born in Enid, and I thought my parents and I would return to Enid when my preacher father retired, because they owned a house in Enid. But instead, they sold the house in Enid and bought a house here, where they remained the rest of their lives.  I used to mess with "the Reverend" (as I sometimes lovingly referred to my father) by reminding him that just because you are heading out of town with a group of people following you, doesn't mean you are a leader, necessarily.  I've heard of some preachers being "run out of town", too.  Pardon the detour!

Newkirk is a graduate of OSU, with post-graduate work through OU, and spent 20 years in radio and development, followed by 24 years with economic development in Enid, Lawton, Oklahoma City, and Broken Arrow (in addition to Okmulgee).  He believes that attracting jobs is one of the most important factors in moving a city forward, and alluded to Okmulgee's past history when there were several glass plants and other multi-employee businesses, most of which are no longer here.

In the case of Ball Brothers glass plant, Newkirk stated that he and several others had flown to Muncie, Indiana and talked with the "big wheels" there, and were assured that the Okmulgee plant was their most productive plant they owned, however, it wasn't too long after this visit that the Okmulgee plant shut down.  The reason given for the shut-down was not because a lack of a strong work force, but the fact that products such as mayonnaise, mustard, peanut butter, and other products in glass containers were switching to plastic.  In other businesses, robotics have replaced the number of employees needed, and in a lot of metropolitan areas, the biggest reason for lost employment is due to substance abuse.

Newkirk stated that the reason he is here is because he knows Okmulgee can be successful, and he substantiated this claim by referencing the three new businesses (expansions) by Covington Aircraft from the time he left Okmulgee in 1994 until now.  Furthermore, with Green Country Technology Center and two post-secondary education centers (OSUIT and the College of the Muscogee Nation) there is no lack of a well-trained work force in this area.  In fact, since he began his new job on December 1, he has toured OSUIT to see the tremendous amount of upgrades since he was here previously, and to learn of the continuing support given by a lot of major and international companies.

In addition, Newkirk alluded to the three industrial parks, one west of town, 300 acres south of town in the area of the former Budweiser distribution center, and one owned by the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.  Okmulgee is blessed with a sufficient water supply to support the needs of new industry, and we still have the best under-utilized airport in the state with acres and acres of space.  So, now that we, along with Jenks Riverside (Jones) Regional Airport, are under the umbrella of Tulsa International Airport management, maybe we can get something moving in that direction.  And now that our Lions Club is moving in the right direction, we are continuing to look for a few more good men and women to share in the blessing of service to the community.  "WE SERVE".

 

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