New Lawton Econ. Dev. Director ready to put nose to grindstone

Lawton_Ed Cole says he wants to build relationships with Lawton businesses - relationships that will keep them coming here.  He's the new Chief of Economic Development for the Lawton Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and says he sees big potential for Lawton -despite the sagging US economy.  "I would tell them this is an area that's hot," he said.  "There's a tremendous bang coming from the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) expansion, and there's a lot of energy here."

One project already in the works is revitalizing downtown's Second Street.  Cole says he hopes his 'can-do' attitude will get things moving.  He says the chamber has a strategic plan to target four types of businesses, and says he believes there still are companies looking to expand and move.

Cole has been on the job only 12 days and already is knee-deep - immersing himself in learning about Lawton-Fort Sill, its people, and what it has to offer.  "When times are tough, that's when you really prove whether you're capable of getting it done," he said.  Since times couldn't be tougher, he says now is the time to narrow focus.  "My job - at this point - is to build relationships, and talk to those folks that we feel can potentially come here," he said.

Businesses such as food processors, plastics companies, defense contractors, and robotics, all may be good fits for the area.  "We think there's a lot of big-time potential for defense-related homeland security type of electronics - people that would dealing with software systems," he said.

But, Cole says he won't be relying on a phone call or e-mail.  He says he intends to meet face-to-face.  While he says it's tough out there, and a lot of companies currently have a 'wait-and-see' attitude, he's optimistic.  "I really believe there's still companies that were looking to expand prior to the economic downturn," he said.

Cole says he doesn't take any excuses for an answer - they don't produce results.  "Economic development is always a, 'What have you done for me lately?' job - and it should be," he said.  "You have to say, 'I'm going to do this because of, or in spite of..,' not because, 'I've got a list of excuses that are ready in my pocket.'"

He says that once he soaks everything in he will put together a blueprint of all he would like to accomplish, and put his nose to the grindstone.  Cole comes to Lawton-Fort Sill after six years heading up Industrial Sales in Vermillion County, Indiana.