Gulf Coast Pipeline Project brings benefits to Oklahoma entrepreneurs and town coffers.
Residents of this small Oklahoma town may give directions based on “the light” (Prague’s sole traffic signal), but make no mistake: They love their town and its way of life.
“I’m from Los Angeles, and when I moved here to take care of my mother when she broke her arm, I thought — what am I getting into?” said Tera Leigh, a photographer in Prague (pronounced “Pregg”). “Now, I can’t imagine leaving.”
There were some who worried that Prague’s small-town charm might be at risk when they learned that it would be the site of a construction yard to support TransCanada’s Gulf Coast Pipeline Project. To the relief of Leigh and others, that didn’t happen. On the contrary, most residents believe their town is better off for having hosted the Project.
Locals, such as entrepreneurs Clifford Bryant and his son Chadd, sensed opportunity for the city and its business sector.
Among his many enterprises, Clifford acquired Bryant Park, a formerly marginal RV and trailer park that he completely transformed in anticipation of the business he knew the pipeline would bring. His son, Chadd, had purchased a diner (at the age of 24) long before the pipeliners came to town, but he, too, was determined to make the construction crews and foremen welcome from Day One.
“I have been on the city council for seven years, so I heard about the possibility of the construction yard coming to Prague. We were in competition with Holdenville,” Clifford said. Working with the council, city manager and others, Prague was able to present its case and be selected as site of the yard.
And Prague hasn’t looked back since.
In Clifford’s particular instance, he saw nothing but opportunity in the RV and trailer park that sits a mile or two from the construction yard.
“I bought it two months before you guys came,” he said. “I had to put some money into it — I laid 400 feet of water line and added some electric connections. I had 57 RV slots available, and I filled every one of them.”
Positive impact at the cash register
Putting on his city council hat, Clifford notes that a full RV park contributes as much as $8,000 a month in electricity fees alone to the municipal utility. “If we hadn’t fixed up that park, that revenue would have gone somewhere else.”
Chadd Bryant, at 26 a seasoned restaurateur, is not relying solely on pipeliners for business. He took a chance and converted a drab and dank diner (formerly a filling station) into a bright and cheery rock-themed eatery with a long list of specials appealing to local palates. Chaddar’s Restaurant was already a success when pipeliners began arriving in 2013.
“Some people would see all this new business and immediately raise their prices. I wasn’t going to do that,” Chadd said. So he kept the faith with his regular clientele and then attracted the pipeliners who were drawn to the diner’s food and atmosphere. “I guess my business is up 15 to 20 percent.”
Chadd exudes confidence, which comes in handy for an entrepreneur. “Basically, when you believe in what you’re doing, and when you believe you’re going to be the best at it, it gives you the confidence you need to do the right things,” he said.
But what about when the pipeliners move on and the yard is shuttered?
“As a member of the council, I keep a close eye on sales tax revenues. Before they came to town, we were doing about $80,000 a month. Last month was $161,000,” Clifford said. “Double is pretty impressive.”
He also noted that Prague didn’t lose its head when the incremental revenue started rolling in.
“Once those guys leave, a lot of that revenue is still going to be here. That extra sales tax revenue has been going in the bank. Long after they’re gone, that money will be available for street improvements, for emergency response — it’s the gift that keeps on giving.”
For her part, Karen Bryant (Clifford’s wife), isn’t ready to say goodbye. “We could use another round. When are you going to expand?”
And by the way, if you’re in the Prague area the first Saturday in May, stop by for the Kolache Festival. “You really ought to come by. We’ll treat you right,” said Clifford. “TransCanada’s been a big part of our life this year.”