Of all the cities in western Oklahoma transformed significantly because of the oil and gas boom, Elk City might have changed the most.
Consider this—115 oil and gas companies have located in the city, there are now 1,200 hotel-motel rooms, a new industrial park has been created, and an established energy-related company has plans to expand from 180 current employees to 400.
“We’re the 7th fastest growing micropolitan in the country,” boasts Jim Mason, the Economic Development Director for Elk City. The city has seen a 3.5% growth rate in the past few years. Its official census is about 12,000 but the micropolitan area reaches more than 23,000 residents.
Typically, sales tax revenue has blossomed and is up 3% over last year. The revenue averages $1.3 million a month for the city that sits along Interstate 40 and has become a stronger regional shopping base for western Oklahoma. The City’s unemployment rate is a phenomenal 2.9%. “Companies are advertising in the papers every day, especially for drivers who have commercial driver’s licenses.”
In OkEnergyToday’s examination of other cities feeling the success of the oil and gas boom, El Reno, Woodward, Alva, Weatherford and Enid, the success in Elk City has also created some housing problems, according to Mason. “We have three new four-story hotels—two are finished and the third will be open in a month and that’ll mean 1,200 motel rooms in the city. Of course, a lot are being used by oil companies.”
The city has resorted to financial incentives to get one local builder to construct 104 new apartments. “We’ve also incentivized another local builder to build 24 duplexes and they should be ready by Christmas of this year,” added Mason. As luck would have it, the city convinced a Missouri builder to start construction of new homes in an area abandoned during the oil boom of the 1980s. Lucky because the area already had the infrastructure of streets and utilities in place. “The first homes are in the $200,000 range and he’s putting up about two homes a week,” continued Mason.
That’s not all. The city has issued 60 building permits in the past 12 months and it means new businesses too. A Billy Sims barbecue is opening this week while a Rib Crib and new Taco Bell will be opening in the coming months. In 2012, some 785 new jobs were created in Elk City. Twenty new commercial properties went up last year resulting in 86,386 square feet of new retail space.
Consider these results of the oil and gas boom. The increased enrollment at the Elk City School District of course is straining classrooms. But there are so many new students, the school buses are stopping at the City’s RV parks. Further, the city has constructed a new fire station and city hall in the past several years.
“We’ve paved every street—even paved our alleys,” remarked Mason. And Elk City has created a new landfill. Plus, Elk City saw need for a new 130-acre industrial park, spending about $2 million to buy the land and install infrastructure. “We’re closing the deal this week,” added Mason. “And we have one possible tenant we’re negotiating with for 55 acres.” The prospective new tenant is an existing oil and gas firm with the 185 employees in Elk City already but it has plans to expand to 435 employees.
Elk City has also upgraded its airport terminal and runway, the site where corporate oil and gas planes land daily. Money has been spent on park improvements and in the words of Mason, Elk City’s downtown is “very vibrant.”
Of course, the oil and gas means near-instant wealth for landowners in the region. Yes, there are stories of overnight millionaires. “I know of one lady, a wealthy widow from oil and gas, whose neighbor was selling a house, so she bought the house to make sure she could control who was going to be her neighbor,” chuckled Mason. “Blessed—we really are.”
The money’s flowing so strongly in Elk City that it now has two newspapers—The Daily Elk Citian and The Elk City Daily News. Several months ago, one of the newspapers advertised for a new Managing Editor and boasted of a newspaper war—thanks to the oil and gas boom.