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Bryan County and the City of Durant stand on a threshold. We can embrace the future, or we can stubbornly hold onto the past.
In 2002, a marketing professional speaking to a group of teachers in Texas City, Texas, made a prediction about computers. At that time the newest cell phone gimmick was texting. In fact, it was so new that using the word “text” as a verb was not a thing.
Nokia was the most popular brand of cell phone.
Based on research he had done, he predicted that within 10 years the average personal computer would cost less than $1,000 and be the size of a Rubik’s Cube.
On June 29, 2005, the first iPhone was introduced to the U.S. market. Basically, a handheld computer that you can make telephone calls with, that first smartphone was a sensation. Less than 15 years later, Apple considers that first iPhone so obsolete it doesn’t even service or carry parts for it anymore. Communications has progressed and changed faster than just about any other form of technology. No one wants to go back to bag phones.
But when it comes to economic development, there are those in Durant who appear to be pining away for the horse and buggy.
Waves of progress are washing over our community. They bring new industry, new job opportunities, new prospects for prosperity. The city is experiencing growth that is the envy of larger cities in the state. Yet, we are told by some leaders that it’s all too much. We don’t need to attract new business. We need to stand on the threshold and block the progress from entering our community.
They point out that progress brings new challenges along with benefits. Like the cell phone addiction and isolation that came with our beloved handheld computers, progress brings demands on the city’s infrastructure. Social issues like increased homelessness, a shrinking labor pool, crime and substance abuse demand our attention.
The temptation is to demand that the ride stop. But that’s not really an option. Too much of this is out of our hands. Like pre-tsunami waves, the future is washing over Bryan County. We can’t afford to ignore them.
We have relatively inexpensive land. We have a business-friendly state and we have industries that see the benefits of doing business in Oklahoma. All around us are municipalities that will welcome new business. If we do nothing, those new businesses will flow around us like sea water washing over a cardboard seawall and set up shop elsewhere. As we caress our beloved Nokias, the newest smartphones will ring all around us.
In the past couple of weeks, Durant’s small business community and its supporters have been highlighting all that is right with Durant on social media in an effort to secure the city a spot on a business makeover show. The social media posts show a community ready for innovation and progress. Entrepreneurs and civic leaders look at Durant and see possibilities just beneath the challenges. Those are the leaders we need. They are men and women who know the future is coming and that Durant will never be the same city it was. But they see that as the positive growth that it is.
They don’t just see a city changing, they see a city growing. They don’t see the death of a community, they see the sprouting of a new community from the established roots of a town built by visionaries who who came before them. They don’t relish the destruction of the past, they celebrate the continuation of principles and ideals that made Durant great. They see the chance to make it even greater.
As Durant stands on this threshold that ringing we hear is the future is calling. Let’s not answer it with flip phone technology.