MIDAMERICAN ORANGE: Sanders Mitchell and Dr. Bob Klabenes proudly pose in front of OSUIT.
OKMULGEE. Okla. — The nation’s largest rural industrial park, MidAmerica Industrial Park () of Pryor, has been honored by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education for an innovative partnership with Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology. The educational partnership has helped the Park maintain its edge as one of the leading centers for manufacturing, processing and distribution in the United States.
It began in 1998 when asked OSUIT to begin developing and delivering customized training and professional development for its many employers and their employees in order to increase productivity. The effort soon grew to an on-site facility that delivers customized training, college credit courses and career exploration events for youth to build a steady stream of qualified employees for the future.
This partnership was among 22 recently honored this year by The Regent’s Economic Development Partnership Recognition Program.
Natalie Shirley, Oklahoma Secretary of Commerce and Tourism, says administrator Sanders Mitchell’s tremendous leadership and vision has made MidAmerica Industrial Park the gold standard for what can be accomplished at the local level. “His partnership with Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology to develop curricula and provide educational opportunities shows that when creativity and innovation meet, success is inevitable.”
For more than a decade, this relationship markedly increased employee productivity at . The partnership has also involved collaborative efforts with Rogers State University, Northeast Technology Center and the local public schools, along with numerous community partners. In the summer of 2000, as a result of the partnership, the MidAmerica Industrial Park Board of Trustees committed to the construction of a 13,500 square foot technical training facility and the purchase of instructional equipment to support educational programs.
“There’s a common thread that runs through successful economic development and that is education,” said Sanders Mitchell. “We not only need to work harder, but we need to work smarter, and that’s how OSUIT helps our companies. Its programs and curriculum are based on what industry needs, and when we talk to businesses considering relocation to , OSUIT’s reputation becomes a major new business recruiting tool for us.”
As course offerings expanded and the demand for additional services increased, the park trustees decided to double the size of the facility, allowing OSUIT to expand, offering assistance to small business start-ups, provide adult basic education for the community and career awareness programs for children and youth to begin growing employees for the future. Since then, the Education Center has served more than 2,000 people in credit classes and approximately 2,100 people in non-credit classes. In addition, the center has worked with more than 1,500 area K-12 youth in career awareness and exploration programs.