Business Development Center – Formally Open

Great Plains formally opened its business incubator, the Business Development Center on Friday, May 4th. A standing-room-only crowd showed up to celebrate completion of the 28,000 sq. ft. facility, Southwest Oklahoma’s newest business incubator.

L-R, Clarence Fortney, Great Plains Superintendent; Arthur Patrick, president of the GPTC Board of Education; Lawton Mayor Fred Fitch, and Dr. Tom Thomas, President of the Lawton Economic Development Corporation and former Superintendent of Great Plains, officially cut the ceremonial ribbon for Great Plains new Business Development Center, an Oklahoma Certified Business Incubator.

The Business Development Center is an attempt at “do-it-yourself” economic development. Its goal is to take fledgling firms and provide space and business expertise so they can become freestanding businesses  and create jobs.

While the new center provides single and shared office space and light industrial spaces as do many incubators it offers two unique specialties.  A state-of-the art commercial kitchen is available to rent by caterers and businesses that want to commercialize their food products.  Oklahoma State University will assist with nutritional labelling for the latter. The center also has room for artists workshops and will help artists commercialize their work.

The Business Development Center is a great example of a public-private partnership, according to superintendent Clarence Fortney.  The McMahon Foundation provided $1.25 million and the Comanche County Industrial Development Authority $500,000. The Buddy Green family donated $100,000, as did the Comanche Nation. The Great Plains Technology Center Foundation provided more than $60,000 through a fundraising campaign that included more than 30 businesses and individual contributors.

“I don’t know what Lawton would be without McMahon and the vision and foresight of the McMahon family,” Great Plains Superintendent Clarence Fortney told the crowd gathered in the lecture hall of the facility named in the McMahon Foundation’s honor.

Dr. Tom Thomas, interim President of the Lawton Economic Development Corporation and former superintendent at Great Plains, said the idea for a business incubator was conceived nearly 20 years ago.  He said years of research and observation went into determining what would work in the Great Plains BDC and what to avoid.  Thomas said Great Plains has a history of building programs often in areas not considered a tech center’s primary responsibility.  He cited the city-county E-911 center located on the Great Plains campus as well as its SCORE high school dropout program and nationally award winning STEM programs (Pre-Engineering and Biomedical Sciences) as examples.  “Now we want to make sure the Business Development Center lives up to its potential”, he said.

“Tenants are scheduled to start moving in immediately”, Cody Holt, BDC manager, said.  Holt who worked as a small business consultant for 12 years for Great Plains Economic Development Center will manage the BDC. For information about the Business Development Center please contact Holt at cholt@greatplains.edu, of 580.250.5519.  You can also visit the center’s web site at www.bdc.greatplains.edu.