Inflation and supply chain issues are delaying one major Lawton economic development project, a local economic development expert said.
Brad Cooksey, president of the Lawton Economic Development Corporation, said major economic development projects announced for the community still are going to happen. Cooperative ventures among city entities continue to entice new firms to the city while supporting businesses and industries already here.
Cooksey, speaking to members of the Lawton Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, said Carter Wind Energy already is present in the community, with an office established in the business incubator at Great Plains Technology Center. The firm announced in 2021 that it would be moving into Lawton’s west industrial park to build a complex to assemble wind turbines. Called Carter Wind Turbines, that firm is expected to provide 300 jobs when it becomes fully operational.
“Interest rates doubled and the supply chain is slow,” Cooksey said, of things that are slowing construction of the building that LEDC will have built, then lease to Carter Wind Turbines for its operation. “That project will move forward.”
Project Blue Braveheart — revealed months ago as Westwin Elements — also is moving forward, with “a big meeting” scheduled next week, Cooksey said of a project that will build a cobalt and nickel refinery on 480 acres of land south of the Goodyear complex, on the south side of West Lee Boulevard. City Council members took a step in that direction Tuesday by setting a contract with the design firm Garver to craft design plans for water mains to serve the tract, to be built in two phases. The City of Lawton agreed to provide infrastructure to support the site as part of an agreement that is providing $24 million in local incentives for the $150 million first phase of what will ultimately be a $450 million refinery complex.
Cooksey said that refinery project will happen “more quickly than expected,” but on a smaller scale at first. He said the project that will provide 2,335 new jobs (many high-tech) for the region when the refinery is operational in five years was a true team effort, providing a continuity that made Lawton the winning site.
“They have chosen Lawton,” he said of Westwin, adding the cooperative nature of Lawton’s economic efforts also make the city attractive to other industrial and business entities.
Cooksey also told the city’s business leaders the local incentive package comes with benchmarks that Westwin Elements must meet to receive its funding.
“If we do give the incentives, it’s because the project is full steam ahead,” he said.
Under the terms of the incentive package, Phase 1 construction must begin by Dec. 31 and be completed within 18 months of its start date. Westwin CEO KaLeigh Long has said the first piece of the project to be built will be a pilot plant. The incentive agreement, approved by the council in late February, also specifies the redeveloper must provide proof of $126 million in financing within 180 days of full execution of the agreement.