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March 27, 2014

Herrington says ‘yes’ vote will be good for Duncan

DUNCAN — The former board chairman of the city’s economic development foundation said Wednesday Duncan never accomplished anything by saying “no,” and cited the Simmons Center and the regional hospital system as examples.

Before they were built, one critic predicted the Simmons Center would amount to nothing more than a hay barn while others dismissed the idea of consolidating separate hospital facilities into what is now Duncan Regional Hospital, Ben Herrington told the Rotary Club at its weekly noon meeting on Wednesday.

   The two entities now are worth far more to Duncan than what it cost to create them, Herrington said.

   “You never accomplish the good things by saying no,” Herrington said, urging a “yes” vote on Tuesday to extend the city’s half-cent sales tax for economic development.

    Herrington, president of Duncan BancFirst, said the 1,136 jobs and $45 million payroll the Duncan Area Economic Development Foundation has  brought to the area amounts to a 300 percent annual return on the $15 million DAEDF has spent.

 “I’d take that all day long,” he said.

   What DAEDF doesn’t invest, he noted, stays in the city’s trust, whose board is comprised by the Duncan City Council.

    The trust has about $10.1 million in unspent economic development monies, records show.

     Herrington chided DAEDF for doing a “very bad job” in talking about its accomplishments.

      Even so, he said the foundation has helped eight “start up” business become successful while nine others are in DAEDF’s so-called incubator, where they are being nurtured to fruition.

     Critics have criticized DAEDF for its recent investment in constructing a new “spec” building that is nearing completion because it does not yet have a tenant, but Herrington noted DAEDF’s first spec building is now occupied by Cameron Measurements, a Fortune 500 oilfield services company that employs 115 at its Duncan location.

    Herrington also noted that DAEDF bought the former Sooner Trailer Building that was bought last year by Wilco Machine and Fab for $1.5 million.

   The proposed change in distribution of the half-cent sales tax, whose proceeds for the first time will be split with the city if voters approve it, came about after discussions between DAEDF officials, Duncan Mayor Gene Brown and City Manager Jim Frieda, Herrington said.

    The quarter-cent of the sales tax the city will receive  will be spent on infrastructure improvements while DAEDF has pledged to add another $650,000 to improve Duncan’s water system.

    “That’ll help secure the water supply we need in our community,” Herrington said. “This can be a win-win.”

    Mayor Brown spoke briefly after Herrington and also urged passage of the half-cent sales tax extension on Tuesday.

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Duncan mayor Gene Brown and vice mayor Dr. Mike Nelson share a comedic moment during Tuesday night's city council meeting.

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