By SEAN ROWLEY
Inclement weather prevented a groundbreaking, but a ceremony was still held Wednesday to recognize the newest business moving to the Tahlequah Industrial Park.
Representatives for the city, the Cherokee Nation, government agencies, clients and organizations were present at the Indian Capital Technology Center to welcome Backwoods Food Manufacturing to the complex.
“We were actively looking elsewhere, perhaps even purchasing land ourselves,” said Danielle Coursey, co-owner and managing partner of Backwoods Food. “We were offered a really good long-term lease package to locate at the park. For the first five years, we can use the land for free, providing we meet our requirements. From there, we begin paying on the land on a graduating scale.”
The site is three acres on the southeast corner of Main Parkway and Airport Road. The facility will be about 24,000 square feet and construction is expected to cost $2 million.
“We will move our kitchen from our old facility,” Coursey said. “It will be used to handle orders of 25 or 100 units. We will also add a high-speed kitchen, which will handle our larger-volume customers.”
Speaking at the ceremony were Mayor Jason Nichols, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker, and Dr. Steve Turner, president of Northeastern State University. The three said they are excited about Backwoods Food putting a new facility in the industrial park.
“This is a home-grown operation,” Baker said. “They aren’t moving away at a future time, and 50 jobs is a big deal. These jobs have benefits and the workers don’t have to drive to Tulsa or Muskogee. This brings outside funds into Tahlequah, and I enjoy going to the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and seeing that the barbecue sauce is packaged right here in Tahlequah.”
Nichols expressed appreciation that a local venture had chosen to keep its relocation within Tahlequah.
“I know [Coursey] could have chosen to put this facility anywhere,” he said. “I think this speaks well of the business and industry park’s attractiveness.”
Several entities worked to attract Backwoods to the park, including the city, ICTC, Tahlequah Industrial Authority, Oklahoma Department of Commerce and the Tahlequah Public Works Authority.
Cherokee Nation Small Business Assistance Center provided a loan of $350,000. The Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce, Tahlequah Main Street Association, NSU, Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance and Workforce Oklahoma also encouraged Backwoods to choose the park.
Coursey said the success of Backwoods requires a new operation site.
“Right now, we are in a rural part of Cherokee County on our own personal property,” Coursey said. “The business has outgrown the property - the business is next door to our home. With the increasing semi-truck and customer traffic, it is time for us to expand again. We needed to move the operation away from here.”
For history on Backwoods, plus details on the arrangement with the city, www.tahlequahdailypress.com.
Visit www.backwoodsfoods.com for more information about Backwoods Food Manufacturing.