Tahlequah has always boasted its share of movers and shakers. During their day, the Hinds and Squyres families cut new ground, and so did the Felts family. Then there have been the Willises, Rozells, Bakers, Mutzigs, Wrights, and of course, the Reasors.
Although many of the old-line families are still around and working in the background, the baton has been passed – at least in part – to a new group of leaders, especially when it comes to the cutting edge of economic growth. Some, like the Wrights, are the same family, new generation. And at this point, it looks like the younger folks are up to the task.
Last week, the City of Tahlequah, the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce and the Cherokee Nation announced an initiative to attract, develop, and retain a professional health care manufacturing presence in this area. Northwest Arkansas was also brought into the fold, and since so many Oklahomans and Arkansans cross the border every day for various reasons, this makes perfect sense.
Nathan Reed, CEO of the TACC, pointed out Fayetteville and Tahlequah are very similar in terms of demographics and resources, and this program will spur a collaboration in the medical field. With the Cherokee Nation's OSU Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, the Northeastern State University and specifically the College of Optometry, and W.W. Hastings Hospital and Northeastern Health System, there could be no better location.
Apparently, Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce officials agree. Brent Kisling spoke to those pushing the partnership, and he said he believed the regional economy involves more than just Oklahoma. He's right.
It's no secret without the bookends of NSU and the Cherokee Nation, Tahlequah wouldn't have much to offer. As it is, Tahlequah has much more to offer, and anyone aspiring to be a modern-day "mover and shaker" will need to promote that asset. As Reed put it: “This regional approach gives you a choice for big companies that are looking to relocate. You can try by yourself, but it won’t work when recruiting companies. We’ve had some success. We want to make Tahlequah the great city it is becoming. A big piece of this is Cherokee Nation."
That last sentence can scarcely be underestimated. The Tribal Council just passed its largest budget in history, and since education and health care have long been twin pillars of tribal concern, anyone willing to step to the plate can help make it happen. According to Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., the two are intertwined.
Hoskin said: “If we want to build this economy, it's not enough to produce a lot of folks with scholarships and hope that the jobs are there. These kinds of jobs will transform the community. You’ve got a partner in Cherokee Nation, and we want to see this happen.”
That should be enough inspiration to get the fence-sitters to jump off with both feet.