By EMILY RAMSEY
OVERSEEING PROGRESS: Owasso Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Gary Akin at one of Owasso’s gems, the state-of-the-art facilities of Tulsa Tech Conference Center where the Chamber offers outstanding educational programming via the membership and legislative luncheon series.
GTR Newspapers photo
Editor’s Note: Owasso Chamber of Commerce President Gary Akin is one of Greater Tulsa Reporter’s “10 to Watch in Greater Tulsa 2018” as announced in its January 2018 issue. was the first news group in Greater Tulsa to introduce “10 People to Watch,” which launched in January 2009.
Throughout the year, is publishing a series of articles, featuring each of its “10 to Watch,” with next month’s issue to feature Broken Arrow City Manager Michael Spurgeon.
Owasso Chamber of Commerce President and Gary Akin is known throughout the community as a tireless, persistent advocate for business and industry in Owasso and northeastern Oklahoma.
Though Akin is not an Owasso native (he hails from Disney, Oklahoma), his more than four decades of representing Owasso, 24 years as chamber president, well illustrate his passion for the city.
Akin became involved with the chamber during his 19 years with First Bank of Owasso, starting in 1976. He served on the chamber’s board of directors for six years, serving as chairman in 1992.
“When the president position became available in 1995, I applied, confident that I could bring financial and community knowledge to the position,” Akin says.
Since taking his role, Akin says he has seen a tremendous population growth in Owasso and a redefined purpose of the chamber itself. He says, “Owasso has grown in city population from 13,300 in 1995 to currently over 36,000. Our 2018 estimated zip code population is 45,000. That growth has caused the chamber to widen its views and focus on a broad number of issues that impacts its businesses on both a macro and micro level. Representing our businesses on legislative initiatives, economic development, job creation, workforce development, regional partnerships, and state and federal legislation is imperative.”
Akin is a strong advocate of regionalism. He says, “To some, the success of Tulsa and our regional partner cities may not seem directly related to Owasso. To the contrary, for Owasso to be dynamic and vibrant, we must strive to develop a dynamic region.”
For that reason, the Owasso Chamber is actively involved in regional partnership activities, including Tulsa Regional Chamber’s upcoming annual Intercity Visit, October 9-11. This year, Akin and chamber chair Dr. Kathy Campbell will join over 100 other regional officials on a visit to Columbus, Ohio, to gain insights into that city’s success and best practices.
On a micro level, Akin is proud of the work that the chamber does to educate business leaders on current issues and trends. “I believe that we offer outstanding educational programming via our membership and legislative luncheon series, held inside the state-of-the-art facilities of Tulsa Tech Conference Center, in Owasso” Akin says, adding, “We endeavor to offer monthly programs featuring leaders of state and federal government, corporate officials, and community leaders with the hope that when our members leave that day, not only have they networked with other members, they have also learned valuable information.”
Additionally, Akin credits the collaborative efforts of the city government, school systems, economic development officials and chamber leadership as reason for Owasso’s continuous growth.
The Redbud District in downtown Owasso has seen a flurry of recent developments, with millions of private dollars being invested in residential and business expansion, including construction nearing completion of Seven6Main and Mowery Retail and Lofts.
“The Redbud District is creating an exciting spirit of community pride,” says Akin. “In a few years, people won’t recognize the downtown landscape; it will be vibrant and filled with various businesses and family activities.”
Among the chamber’s efforts to promote small businesses is its support of the Shop Small national program for the past five years. This year, Shop Small will take place on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 24. “Small businesses are the economic engine of America,” Akin says.
Approximately 45 businesses will participate in this year’s promotion intended to increase sales for local businesses and promoting the concept of shopping small and shopping local.
To award local shoppers, there will be secret shoppers out and about on that day giving away prizes, notes Akin; also, shoppers who have visited the most local shops will have the opportunity to receive additional prizes.
Akin adds, “Our chamber is small, but very respected. We are led by an outstanding board of directors, complimented by hard working ambassadors, and run daily by a dedicated staff of three full time employees.
As Owasso enters its next phase of growth, there is no doubt that Akin will be standing by, cheering it on.