Academic journal article Journal of the Community Development Society

Rebuilding after Natural Disaster: A Targeted Economic Development Approach

Academic journal article Journal of the Community Development Society

Rebuilding after Natural Disaster: A Targeted Economic Development Approach

Article excerpt


Many rural communities, such as Stroud, Oklahoma, in Lincoln County, are struggling for survival. Leaders in Lincoln County asked economists at the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service at Oklahoma State University to assist them with a targeted economic development strategy. One part of that process was a target industry analysis during which a list of key industries was created using the regional input-output modeling software IMPLAN. On the list were industries with a moderate-to-strong likelihood of containing companies that might be interested in locating or expanding in Lincoln County. When community leaders work with volunteer economic development groups, one common challenge they face is the perception that "the list" is the final product. However, to obtain the maximum community benefit from the list of target industries, leaders in Lincoln County should use the list to develop focused recruitment strategies and retention/expansion programs. This article documents the efforts of the Lincoln County Industrial Development Authority to undertake targeted economic development through the use of target industry analysis. Both successes and challenges are presented.

Keywords: community economic development, industry clusters, Oklahoma, target industry analysis, targeted economic development



Rural communities in Oklahoma are struggling for survival. From 1990 to 2000, 20 out of 77 Oklahoma counties reported population loss. Another 19 grew by less than 5 percent. As a result, Oklahoma lost a representative to the House of Representatives. In addition, Oklahoma's 2000 per capita income was just 80 percent of the national figure, and non-metropolitan Oklahoma's per capita income was only 83 percent of the state's and 66 percent of the nation's per capita income.

Compounding the economic and demographic problems faced by the state, numerous natural disasters left many Oklahoma communities in shambles--sometimes literally. Most recently, in January 2002, an ice storm snapped thousands of power lines and left several hundred thousand area-residents without power, in many cases, for weeks. President Bush declared 45 counties eligible for federal disaster aid. An earlier ice storm had done similar damage to 39 counties in December 2000. Eleven counties were declared disaster areas after both storms. In May 1999, a series of tornadoes made national headlines, one of them reported to be an F-5 on the Fujita scale, as they swept across the state. In Oklahoma alone, 44 deaths and over 600 injuries were confirmed. Other deaths and injuries were reported in Kansas as well. Then-President Clinton declared eleven Oklahoma counties as major disaster areas, and total damage estimates from the tornadoes exceeded $1.2 billion for the state.

Many communities across the state suffered substantial economic loss due to natural disasters over the last three years, but no story is more striking than that of Stroud, Oklahoma, located in Lincoln County. The May 3rd tornado completely demolished Stroud's 44-store Tanger Outlet Mall. At that time, the mall represented at least 50 percent of the city's tax revenue. Besides the 300 jobs lost at the mall, 10 city workers lost their jobs. Also lost to Stroud was the other major employer, Sygma Food Distribution Center, which employed 150 workers. Neither Sygma nor Tanger decided to rebuild in Stroud. Furthermore, the roof was blown off the Stroud Municipal Hospital, which was forced to close. Luckily for Stroud, the hospital has been rebuilt. The situation looked bleak for Stroud. Suddenly, three of their top employers were gone, and the city's single largest revenue source vanished.

Most Oklahomans may have mentally taken Stroud off the state map, but Stroud residents were, and still are, determined to fight for their future. The first priority in this community of 2,700 was to rebuild the hospital. …

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