The Pryor Times

May 8, 2012

GRDA functions to Tulsa: Not the right thing to do

Ben Sherrer

— News of GRDA’s relocation of certain functions and manpower to Tulsa caused widespread panic in rural Oklahoma counties throughout the week, culminating in official comment on the subject byits CEO on Thursday evening.

The official news is that there would not be a closure of facilities in Mayes or Craig Counties - only a relocation of certain functions from areas that rely heavily on GRDA and its power, Mayes County,to an area that doesn’t, Tulsa.

GRDA’s leadership and Board of Directors will no doubt be able to articulate a basis for a decision totake resources from rural Oklahoma - just as the Board did when it once decided to establish an office in Oklahoma City’s Bricktown.  But just because there are articulable reasons for such a decision does not make it the right thing to do.

It has been suggested that our rural area is difficult for the recruitment of certain levels of manpower, particularly engineers. But the existence of other high tech industry in Mayes County and the combined needs in the Mid America Industrial Park would suggest the existence of sufficient manpower in the region - even for GRDA’s needs. We know it is common for people in rural areas to commute to the Tulsa area for work so it seems odd to suggest that it is such a huge impediment for workers in the Tulsa area to commute to Mayes/Craig Counties.

GRDA was formed in rural Oklahoma and has been an economic driver in rural Oklahoma for decades.Its reasonably priced power has benefited rural Oklahoma communities for decades.

Make no mistake about it, the proposal on the table will take high paying jobs to the city and in doing so weaken GRDA’s impact in rural Oklahoma. And that is unfortunate as rural Oklahoma fights for survival against the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metropolitan areas.

I urge GRDA leadership and its Board of Directors to refrain from any action which will divest or otherwise weaken GRDA’s impact and and investment in rural Oklahoma.