Claremore Mayor Bill Flanagan and City Manager Jim Thomas presented the annual state of the city Thursday during the chamber’s first luncheon of the new year. State and city officials, business owners, residents and guests gathered in Rogers State University’s Centennial Center as the city’s successes from 2014 were shared, as well as future opportunities that Claremore has to offer.
“2014 was a defining year for our great city,” said Flanagan. “W experienced a substantial amount of growth in industrial, commercial and residential, experiencing a 30 percent increase in building permits and 78 percent increase in the value of permits.”
In February 2014, Baker Hughes — Claremore’s largest employer with 1,300 employees — opened a new $60 million research and technology center, and by November, the company had agreed to merge with energy giant Halliburton as part of a $34.6 billion deal.
AXH air-coolers followed, acquiring 172,000 square feet of space for three new facilities for the manufacturing of natural gas compression and power generation.
Last year, Claremore also welcomed several new businesses, including Whataburger, CVS Pharmacy, Buffalo Wild Wings and Papa Murphy’s. Construction began on three new hotels — Holiday Inn Express, Hampton Inn and LaQuinta Inn, helping the city “boast” its future events to try and expand tourism in Claremore, said Flanagan.
Thomas spoke in detail of Claremore’s recent economic accomplishments and plans for moving forward through Claremore 2020, a collaborative vision of where city leaders and residents believe the city should by the year 2020.
“We’ve talked about city planning, utilities, tourism, public safety and community partnerships, and over the last 26 months, since I’ve come to Claremore, we have touched on all of those,” said Thomas. “There is not a day that goes by that the city and the Claremore Industrial & Economic Development Authority are not hand-in-hand. Economic development is on the top of our list because the city can’t grow without the sales-tax base.”
Transportation was an important topic discussed with the community Thursday.
Thomas said he and mayor Flanagan have had numerous discussions with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, focusing on the need for an east-west corridor, linking the west side of Rogers County with the east side and allowing the suburb of Owasso to be a closer neighbor to Claremore.
“Partnerships with community groups continue to improve our quality of life,” said Thomas. “One example is the West Bend Block Party outside of the Claremore Expo Center. It became a musician’s haven and food-lover’s paradise during August, September and October.
“I see this only continuing to grow and bring residents together, hopefully bringing people outside the city in as well.”
Claremore’s population continues to grow. Thomas said he is hopeful that by the year 2020, that the population count is between 25 and 30,000.
“We are getting with our home builders to look at our boundaries and looking at ways to accommodate the growth,” he said.
Construction growth continues. Claremore is at about $34 million in construction value, which is about a 78 percent increase in total value from 2013 to 2014.
The city hit $350 million in gross retail sales, a 36 percent increase from 2001, said Thomas.
“At the 2020 state of the city, I would like to be at $500 million in gross retail sales, and we believe this is measurable goal. This is something that we need to stretch for,” Thomas said. “We need to shop Claremore first. Sales tax is important.
“We generated about $10.8 million in sales tax revenue last year.”
Claremore’s rainy day fund has gone from $600,000 to about $4.5 million in the past two fiscal years.
“This is a credit from two standpoints — one, we’ve been realistic in our revenue projections and two, our departments are spending only what they are needing to build up the rainy day fund,” Thomas said. “It is good to have reserves in case of major disasters in a capacity to where we can draw on those when we need them.”