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LEDC marks year of progress

The Lawton Economic Development Corporation marked a year of progress Wednesday during an annual luncheon that included awards to two local educational entities for their business incubators and to the Lawton businessman who has headed its volunteer board of directors since the entity’s creation.

Sean Kouplen, Oklahoma secretary of commerce and workforce development, was the guest speaker at the event, while Oklahoma economist Mark Snead (who has worked with the LEDC and Lawton Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce for years on economic projections) pleased attendees when he said local economic statistics aren’t as bad as people think, if you look at the civilian side of the “two Lawtons,” rather than taking the civilian and military/federal components of the local economy as a total.

The event is presented as the LEDC’s economic review and forecast, telling community leaders, business owners and others what has been accomplished in the past year and what they can expect to see in the coming year.

Despite dismal predictions by some that Lawton is stagnant or shrinking, the speakers said Lawton actually is holding its own and even growing in some areas. Snead, president and economist for Region Track Inc., said while Lawton is particularly challenging to predict — because of its private and federal sectors — the truth is that when economists separate the private sector from the federal one, “the private sector has faired well” in most categories.

The notable exception is population, which includes measures such as retail, housing and financial services. But, even there, the civilian sector is seeing “meaningful growth” in population, a trend Snead and other economists expect to continue into 2019. In fact, Snead said “2018 was a pretty good year for Lawton,” with volatile fluctuations smoothing out and showing signs of modest increases that he expects to continue.

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