“During WWII we had over 10,000 people living in tents just outside of town when the U. S. Government built a smokeless black powder plant that was run by DuPont. They closed it down after the war and in the 1960s were going to dismantle it.” Barbara Hawkins of the Pryor Chamber was explaining to me the history of the 9,000 acre MidAmerica Industrial Park. “Gene Redden, who was a GSA employee, was sent here to tear it all down, but he saw the potential for the town and the region and was able to set up a state trust to own and operate this as the country’s largest rural industrial park.”
The park has its own airport with a 5,500 ft. runway, a 20,000 sf expo center, business incubator run by OSU and over 70 businesses located on its grounds. Sanders Mitchell has run the park ever since Gene Redden suddenly died. He explained some of the other attributes of the park, which is actually more of a small city, “We have our own water plant which has a capacity of 62 million gallons/day. We sell about 28 million gallons per day to local industries and surrounding towns. We also have our own waste treatment plant. We are totally self funding as a public trust and don’t get any help from local or state sources.”
The recession of 2001 was hard on the park, which lost about 2,000 of the 5,100 employees that worked there in 2000. However, since then employment has rebounded to over 4,000 today and several industries are in the process of adding employees.
OK has impressed me with steps they’ve taken in the past several years to make themselves more business friendly and I believe that they are on the cusp of some major job generation. The MidAmerica Industrial Park is one of two Auto Mega-Sites for the State of OK, but I hope that they choose the other site. Having an 800 pound gorilla like and auto company in a town the size of Pryor would be a major economic boost in the short term, but as the auto industrial surges and ebbs perhaps not so good in the long term. I like their current strategy of having a number of smaller, more nimble companies. It gives them a much steadier economic base for the future.