Chamber Chat: “I am not a leader, I am a visionary”
Hello! I heard lots of great comments about this year’s 89er parade, the weather turned out to be gorgeous bringing in lots of people! Thanks to everyone who made the event so successful, especially Steve Gentling who chaired the committee!
About a month ago I spoke to the Guthrie Noon Lions Club about my vision for Guthrie. I would like to share those same thoughts with you in this memo. This will be the modified short version. I’ve spent the past twenty eight years in the downtown area. My first twenty was spent seeing through the eyes of a business owner, trying to run a successful business. I’ve been here at The Chamber going on eight years.
Two years into working at the Chamber I was given a vision about the names of our streets and how words mean things. Division means to divide and that is what our town struggles with on a daily basis, being divided. In this Vision it was revealed to me that we are in the center of the State of Oklahoma where two major highways intersect, Hwy 33 and Hwy 35, if we were to change the name of Division Street to Vision Street our town would have a Noble Vision, not a Noble Division….. I’ve learned a lot about myself since I’ve been here at the Chamber and from sitting on City Council. I thought I would be able to make a difference for our city if I were to hold a seat on the City Council because I have some really great ideas that would benefit Guthrie. Well, I was wrong, I am not a leader, I am a visionary.
One day when I stepped out of the Chamber office I realized why the 100 and 200 block of Oklahoma businesses suffered from a lack of tourists. When you drive up and down Division Street and you look to the East the buildings are smaller while the buildings on the West are huge. People shop with their eyes so the majority of them turn to the West and park. Once they are up and walking around they come to Division with all of the traffic and a Stop light. They will take a look at the buildings… and the traffic and turn around or go to the North or the South. To solve this problem I think the traffic needs to be rerouted to make the vehicles go to Wentz. When you look west from there guess what happens; the buildings all seem to be the same size! People will park and start walking the streets. Divert the traffic from Harrison and Cleveland one block, close Division in the middle of the alley where Century 21 is and where IBC Bank is leaving the alleys open and the Gazebo parking open. Then when people are walking up and down Oklahoma Avenue, which will be left open, they don’t have to stop for traffic. I’ve checked with the City, and ODOT will let them take ownership of the street if it’s closed. The only problem with diverting the traffic through Harrison over by Jelsma Stadium is there is a tunnel that can’t handle all of the traffic. Being a Visionary I don’t see this being a problem, fill the tunnel in.
Another thing we need to think about is what is going to happen to our downtown when the building owners are ready to retire? Are their kids going to take over? Are they going to lease them out? Just fyi, I counted 38 empty buildings out of 95 total buildings in the downtown, I was counting one building as a 25×50. Tourism is about to change dramatically. Oklahoma is getting ready to combine Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department with the Oklahoma Department of Commerce because of budget problems. One guess in what is going to be cut? Almost every small town in America is doing something to attract tourists which means if we don’t make some changes around here people are going to start saying, “been there done that”. If Joe Blow were driving down the street and saw some nice trees and landscaping he just might think something is going on in town and better stop to check it out.
What would happen if we had something in town that would bring people in during the week, like say anywhere from 500 to 1000 people a day? Well, we might need a few more restaurants and shops for starters. Parking would be a problem and then we would need a few micro hotels. Guthrie is the perfect place for an event center/conference center, people love the downtown The State Capital Publishing building could be just what we need to bring folks in. Each floor is 10,000 square feet which when I ran the numbers will hold anywhere from 500 to over 1200 people depending on if you set it up classroom, reception, banquet, booths, etc.. Like I told you earlier, I am only the Visionary. Someone else needs to figure out how to make it happen.
This week’s Chamber Coffee will be hosted by Guthrie Public Schools at Fogarty School, located at 902 N. Wentz. You don’t have to be a chamber member to attend, blessings!