November 10, 2010
Soon Shawnee citizens may not have to resort to venturing 30 minutes to the west to Oklahoma City for all their material and culinary needs.
Despite the recent economic recession, the Shawnee business market appears to be on an incline. Businesses (both corporate and local) are eyeing Shawnee’s geographical advantages, among other things, and are looking to make a profit.
Probably most notable to Oklahoma Baptist University, is the addition of a Whataburger on North Kickapoo close to where I-40 cuts through town, in what used to be “3 Buddies,” a barbeque restaurant.
“[Whataburger] is moving into the 3 Buddies site and going to keep the building but remodel it,” Justin Erickson, community development director of Shawnee, said. “That particular intersection, I-40 and Kickapoo, is probably the number one commercial intersection that we have in terms of for them and for future companies.”
For those unaware, Whataburger is a fast food hamburger joint that began in 1950 and now has 700 restaurants across 10 different states.
According to the construction superintendent, Whataburger will open Nov. 21.
“A honey-butter chicken biscuit is the only cure for a Saturday morning studying hangover from the night before,” Zach Coffey, a senior sociology major, said.
“I think it’s great when new businesses open and are successful in Shawnee. It brings an economic boost, and it is an incentive for other companies to open up shop in this town.”
Coffey isn’t the only Bison looking forward to the grand opening.
“I’m rather pumped about getting a new Whataburger. Where I live in Texas, there are tons of them and each of is extremely tasty,” Nathaniel Delaney, a freshman political science major, said.
“It would make this place seem more like home. Whether or not Oklahoma makes good ‘Texas Toast’ has yet to be determined.”
According to Erickson, Whataburger isn’t the only big name chain looking to call Shawnee home, fast food giant Chick-fil-A is also apparently looking to expand.
“I know Chick-fil-A is interested in coming [to Shawnee],” Erickson said.
“Unfortunately, until they turn in a permit nothing is official but there is truth to the rumors.”
And rumors like that may leave some OBU students hoping permits and plans are put into place soon.
“I think everyone would like to see a Chick-fil-A open up in Shawnee,” Coffey said.
Rumors of a retail store moving into the old Wal-Mart building, which now sits empty in the Shawnee Mall, have also taken root.
“I know the mall has interest in getting a large-scale retailer there,” Erickson said.
“But again nothing has been submitted at this time. But I think in the next three months we will probably see an announcement that the mall will make regarding who may move in.”
National chains aren’t the only things Shawnee consumers have to look forward to in the near future.
Sips Kafe, a locally owned coffee shop whose grand opening is slated for Dec. 13, has remodeled a building on Main Street in downtown Shawnee.
A new Chinese restaurant “China Moon” has also moved in to the shopping center just north of Kickapoo and MacArthur on the west side of the street.
Other construction around Shawnee include: OBU improving its track facilities, the trails project by St. Gregory’s University and the Shawnee Regional Airport, the airport’s new terminal and runway improvements, Shawnee Milling is building a new quality control center, a new dentist’s office on the south I-40 frontage road, a new eye doctor’s facility on 45th and Union, a new strip mall south of Golden Corral, the expanding of Kickapoo to include four lanes and sidewalks on each side of the street, various improvements and additions being made by the Citizen Pottawatomi Nation tribe, and a new BancFirst on Kickapoo.
Tim Burg, the executive director for the Shawnee Economic Development Foundation, sent a memo to city of Shawnee employees on Monday stressing that the town has many geographical benefits that can be useful in terms of attracting businesses to it.
“Having I-40 run through our community, plus Highway 177, plus proximity to I-35 and I-44, plus the rail connection to the rest of the world is a big deal,” Burg said.
“What we take for granted is essential to the world of commerce and those who watch the flow of goods and products.”
Burg sent a copy of a report that the SEDF will make to the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce later in the month, which shows the type of work the SEDF is done during the month of October.
Highlights included types of projects the SEDF is currently working on, such as: four retail expansions or new locations, three housing related projects, three new industry locations, three new service industry prospects, and two existing manufacturing expansions.
The organization also met with Boeing to discuss lower tier aerospace firms.
All in all, it looks as though Shawnee citizens have much to look forward to in terms of economic development.
“I’m rather pleased with the business’s around Shawnee. If there is something that you need, more than likely, it will be found around here locally,” Delaney said. “You can find anything from food, sports goods, even places to repair your laptop.”
But, just in case any corporate businessmen are reading, Delaney did have a suggestion.
“One thing I would like to see, and I’m pretty sure my fellow Texans would agree, is a Chicken Express,” Delaney said.
“Don’t get me wrong, McAlister’s has some pretty legit sweet tea, but there is none that compares to Chicken E sweet tea. Something about some awesome chicken strips, legit fries, a biscuit, gravy, and perfectly made sweet tea just make you feel all happy inside.”