LAWTON, OK (KSWO) -A group of Lawton city leaders is hoping to change the perception of the city.
They say they've encountered countless people who move to the area with a negative image of what the community has to offer. So, they've created a group called 'Lawton Proud' to focus on ways to help Lawton grow and to showcase new and current businesses.
Some of the concerns raised about the community include a lack of recreational activities for families and the community's crime rate. All the leaders believe Lawton is a great place to be and its reputation should reflect that.
Steve Hyde, the CEO at Southwestern Medical Center, says he almost didn't move here after researching Lawton online.
"The examples of gang violence and drug use and murders and things like that, and those were the immediate things that came up when you just Googled Lawton. I just thought 'wow, is that really a bad community to go to?' But I can tell you since I've been here, and over these six years, Lawton is a great community, great place to raise your family," Hyde said.
The soldiers who move to Fort Sill often come with a negative perception as well, but Nancy Elliot, who works in the public affairs office on Fort Sill, says the community is always reaching out to the military.
"One of the things that Lawton Community Theatre does, for instance, is every show the preview show, which is the final dress rehearsal, they are sending out 100 free tickets out to Fort Sill so the soldiers and the spouses can do a date night," Elliot explained.
Lawton Proud member Glen Boyer says the number one myth and stigma Lawton has is that there is nothing to do.
"The fact is, there is a ton of stuff to do in Lawton. From the new bike baths that are coming online as I speak to our own backyard, the number one attraction between Dallas and Oklahoma City, the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge hiking biking, appreciating the wildlife there, more retail options then we had just five years ago with two major shopping centers and dining options," Boyer said.
Boyer says this isn't just a group getting together to talk about a great new restaurant they've tried, it's much more.
"This is an economic development initiative, this is an economic development movement. I think because we are really talking about promoting community pride. As pride in our community and self-image improves, it improves to those that live outside of our community," Boyer said.
Lawton Proud heavily promotes shopping in Lawton. Boyer says if you're new to the area and the big name store you are used to isn't in our area, open your mind to local businesses an you may just find something better.