City's economy transitioning to new pattern
There are at least a couple of ways to judge an economy. You can look at a parade of numbers that size up everything from employment to bank deposits to home prices. Or you can drive around and see what's happening in the community.
Mark Snead has done both, and he believes that the Lawton area is in the midst of a transition to a new economic pattern, one less dependent on the federal government and perhaps more like the nation as a whole.
Snead, president of his own economic modeling and forecasting company, RegionTrack Inc., has been following Lawton since he was director of the Center for Applied Economic Research at Oklahoma State University. Last week he presented a mostly positive forecast for the local economy at the Lawton-Fort Sill Economic Development Corporation's annual Economic Development Luncheon.
Lawton's economy has long been fueled by Fort Sill; when defense employment and spending rose, the local economy prospered, no matter what was happening in the national or even state economy. Proof of that came when Fort Sill was a big winner in the latest round of Base Realignment and Closure: While the rest of the nation was wallowing in a trough created by the Great Recession, Lawton benefited from an influx of people and construction. Conversely, when the nation as a whole began to finally enter into economic recovery, local progress was dampened by cutbacks on post.
The Center for Applied Economic Research first began producing Lawton forecasts in 2007, and Snead said a tour of the city shows that it has "changed considerably" even in that short time. It's most obvious, perhaps in retail, with recent openings of the developments on Northwest 82nd Street and downtown.
Snead said the numbers also point to changes in the local economy and said Lawton is in the process of developing its "own personality" economically, one that's more diversified and less dependent on a single industry.
"It is changing before our very eyes," Snead said though the entire process may take a decade or two or three and Lawton will benefit from more business contacts in other places and by its proximity to Texas.