Woodward, Okla. —
The Northwest Oklahoma Alliance (NwOA) met at the Woodward Conference Center on Thursday to discuss retail business development opportunities in the region.
"What's happening with the energy play in Northwest Oklahoma is like nothing this country has seen in years," said guest speaker Mike Gallagher, vice president of market planning and franchising for Sonic Drive-Ins. "Because of it there's a massive amount of opportunity for retail here."
Not only is energy development bringing in more people to live and work in Woodward and the surrounding area, but it is also increasing the flow of traffic through the area, Gallagher said. And traffic flow is something that a lot of businesses, including Sonic, look at when considering where to locate, he said.
Because of issues like traffic flow, Gallagher said Sonic is even beginning to branch out its franchising to smaller towns that were formerly overlooked due to size.
"We're very excited about small town development," Gallagher said, noting there were around 627 small towns nationwide Sonic was looking at for its development pool.
While he admits that the company does not plan to build restaurants in all 627 small towns, it will consider building stores in around 10 percent of them.
In making its decision on which towns make it into that 10 percent, Gallagher said Sonic officials will look at a number of factors that help to drive traffic into the communities.
He said these “opportunity drivers” can include what other facilities are based in those communities such as "vibrant" grocery stores, movie theaters, feed stores, hardware stores, and 2A or larger size high schools. Also attractive are communities that are located near highway intersections or with increasing economic bases such as energy or manufacturing, he said.
With the increase of energy production Northwest Oklahoma could soon become very interesting area for other retail developers in addition to Sonic who are interested in capitalizing on small town markets.
In other business during Thursday's meeting, NwOA members discussed current improvements to the quality of life around Northwest Oklahoma, including new walking trails in Buffalo, new housing additions in Kingfisher and Alva, as well as Woodward's restoration of the tornado damaged areas, including the Lakeside 6 movie theaters.