Located on the northern end of the SCOOP shale formation in Grady County, Okla., Chickasha’s success is closely linked to the state’s oil and natural gas industry.
As the industry has expanded in the past few years, so have many aspects of Chickasha’s economy — from real estate and food service to farming and banking.
“The oil and natural gas industry has really given us the opportunity to see what we can be,” said Christy Elkins, president and CEO of the Chickasha Economic Development Council. “And to develop a plan to get us to reach our potential.”
Elkins came into her role with the Chickasha EDC around the time the industry began making an upswing. The town was struggling to provide enough housing and retail to service industry workers. Elkins worked to recruit a developer to build a 40-acre shopping center to help fill that gap.
“The activity in the SCOOP region helped seal that deal,” she says. “The oil and gas industry, and the people who are here, contribute to our sales tax, and we’re so grateful for that because that helps our community provide the services that the oil and gas industry and everyone else needs. So, it’s a great thing for our economy to have the energy industry here.”
But the oil and natural gas boom isn’t just creating new business. It’s also lifting existing businesses that have long served the people of Chickasha.
“We are starting to notice a lot more customers coming in,” said Marianne Eaton, owner of Jake’s Rib in Chickasha. Eaton has owned the barbecue restaurant for 35 years and receives catering business from rig workers when the industry is booming.
Jake’s Rib is family-owned and Eaton said it gives people a friendly place to relax after a day’s work. And with the industry bringing people into Grady County from across the U.S., Eaton says it gives Chickasha an opportunity to shine.
Bassam Al Zoubi, owner of the local Broncos Gas Station, has also seen a spike in business from rig workers, and has extended his hours to serve more workers before their shifts. “We were doing 6 a.m. till 8 p.m. when we started,” he said. “Now we open at 4 in the morning and stay until midnight.”
Al Zoubi says the oil and natural gas industry is actually what brought him to Chickasha in 2012. Since then, he’s seen a consistent uptick in business and has plans to open a second location if the industry continues to perform. “I’m ready,” he said. “I’ve got my boots on.”
Another Chickasha local who has seen an increase in economic activity is Paul Lewis, who has lived there his entire life and currently serves as the business development officer for First National Bank & Trust.
In his role, Lewis said he’s seen a lot of progress in the past 15 years, from adding new retail to struggling farmers receiving crucial payments from mineral rights.
“When the oil and gas industry comes here and they’re doing their drilling, it has created a lot of wealth in this area,” he said. “[At the bank], we see our deposits go up, people have more money to spend and, even after that, it creates loans because people are spending money and opening new businesses. So it has been very good.”
With new business opportunities and an influx of industry workers, housing has become a major need in Chickasha. “Our hotels are full. Our RV parks are full,” Lewis said. “We have a traffic jam once in awhile, and that’s kind of nice. I love to see that.”
Elkins says there are always growing pains in any community experiencing an influx in businesses and residents. But Chickasha is up for the challenge.
“All this activity, all the people coming into our community, the new businesses—they have shown us our potential of what we can be,” she said. “We’re starting to see what that is and taking action on it to make our community an even better place.”
Increased customer flow for restaurants and retailers, better jobs for skilled workers and an increase in residents to help create a broader tax base to fund public projects–it’s all happening in Chickasha, thanks to the oil and natural gas industry.
“Sometimes you need that one catalyst that everyone says, ‘Now we can get started. Now we know who we are and can develop ourselves,’” Elkins said. “We have people in our community who are willing to build. We have the capability right here in Chickasha with our local people. If you need to be in our market, just let me know and we’ll find a way to get you here.”
Learn more about how the oil and natural gas industry impacts communities across Oklahoma in EnergyHQ’s economic section: EnergyHQ.com/Economic