EDITORIAL: Officials labor hard for Lawton’s future

September 5, 2022

The Lawton Constitution

As we observe Labor Day this weekend, we have reason to be optimistic about Lawton’s future.

Labor Day was born out of labor unrest in the 1880s and pays tribute to the contributions of America’s workers. The holiday was signed into law on June 28, 1894, by President Grover Cleveland. Most of us laborers observe the holiday by taking a day off from our labors.

But several officials in the Lawton-Fort Sill community have been laboring hard recently to ensure Lawton’s economic future.

In March, Fort Sill announced that almost 400 new residents from the Army’s 4th Battalion 60th Air Defense Artillery Regiment would call Fort Sill home. The colors of the battalion were uncased earlier this year, for the first time in 50 years. The battalion is the first Maneuver Short Range Air Defense unit in the United States. Troop strength will eventually top out at more than 500 soldiers, most of them new to the Lawton-Fort Sill community.

More troops will call Fort Sill home temporarily when the counter-unmanned aerial systems school from Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona relocates to Fort Sill in Fiscal Year 2024. The goal of the school is to train warfighters how to fly and identify drones. Officials have not released the number of troops who will come through Fort Sill for training, nor how long they will stay.

Both announcements will only cement Fort Sill’s role in military training, helping to ensure its future.

But the biggest economic announcement may be yet to come. Lawton’s economic development entities – Lawton Economic Development Corporation, Comanche County Industrial Development Authority and the City of Lawton – have put together an incentive package to draw a major industry to town. The Lawton City Council signed off on the incentive package at its last meeting in August. Officials are being tight-lipped about the details, but said the company could employ more than 2,000 people in five years. That’s almost as much as Goodyear, which employs about 3,000 people from all of Southwest Oklahoma.

This could be a game-changer for not only Lawton but for all of Southwest Oklahoma. We should know in a few weeks if Lawton has been chosen. If we are, we hope the new company will find a willing workforce since Lawton’s unemployment rate is slightly higher than other counties in Southwest Oklahoma.

The national unemployment rate is 3.5 percent, and the unemployment rate for Oklahoma is 3 percent. According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, Comanche County’s unemployment rate for July is 4 percent and Lawton’s rate is 3.9 percent.

Other unemployment rates for Southwest Oklahoma counties for July are: Cotton, 3 percent; Stephens, 3.6 percent; Tillman, 3.6 percent, Kiowa, 3.4 percent; Caddo, 3.7 percent; Jackson, 2.9 percent; Greer, 4.1 percent; and Harmon, 3 percent.

Many businesses we know of, including our own, struggle to find employees. People don’t seem to want to work like they did before the pandemic in 2020. Many worked from home during that time and have found they like that flexibility and have been slow to return to traditional workplaces.

With the addition of the troops at Fort Sill and the possibility of 2,000 jobs being added, Labor Day is a good time to remember Lawton’s economy seems well positioned for the future.


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