By TOM FINK
Rickey Hayes may always have Paris, but for now, he's all about Claremore. "I grew up in Paris, Texas - I'm a Texas boy, but now, I'm thrilled to be a part of the Claremore landscape," Hayes said, his face spread into a broad grin. "I see many good things ahead for this City and being a part of that is exciting."
Hayes, who holds a BS in criminal justice and a Masters degree in counseling, originally came to Oklahoma shortly after the turn of the millennium, looking to continue his already 15-year career in law enforcement. "I came to the state in 2001 to interview for the Chief of Police position in Owasso," Hayes said. "During the interview, I realized the Chief of Police position wasn't the best fit for me at the time, but while I was here, I fell in love with the area - about a year later, I came back and took the position of Owasso's Director of Economic Development."
During his time in Owasso, Hayes was instrumental in making the Owasso community attractive to retailers, helping to bring in national chains such as Target, Best Buy, Hobby Lobby, and numerous others. "Initially, the big 'push' when I started was to recruit restaurants, but if you can learn how to market your community to box stores, restaurants will follow, and that's what happened in Owasso," he said.
"Three 'pillars' I preached were that the city was fiscally healthy enough to assist developers, it was a community that welcomed retail opportunity, and that it was an environment where people could get a return on their investments - it was true of Owasso, and it's certainly true for Claremore." After seven years of serving Owasso, Hayes was contractually hired in January to help stimulate retail development in Claremore.
"Right off the bat, I began work on an aggressive marketing plan for the community to help market Claremore to national retailers," he said. "In Owasso, when Target came in, the floodgates opened and retailers were coming out of the woodwork - I know the same thing is possible with Claremore." One thing unique about Claremore, Hayes' said, was it's nature as a "micropolitan" area.
"The demographic of the area is that's a 'micropolitan' area is that it's something of a 'stand-alone' city - it's not a larger metro area, like a Tulsa or a Dallas, but it's not really a small town," he said. "Also, it's distinct in that it's not a portal to another, larger city." But whatever it's called, Hayes said Claremore has good things on its horizon.
"I'm excited for Claremore for a number of reasons," he said. "Firstly, I believe the City has a city manager and staff that are united in helping Claremore reach its full potential, retail-wise - they're already raising the bar with plans for future growth. "Secondly, there are so many possibilities with a four-year university here, and there's a vastly untapped potential to attract jobs here in the industrial operations and workforce development," he said. "Plus, the planned highway improvements to allow increased flow of traffic - all of these elements together create a recipe for prosperous city, destined for growth.
"What I see for Claremore is it's going to become a 'Greenhouse environment' where growth is just the nature of things - it's been on the verge of that for a long time," Hayes said. Hayes has been married to wife, Wendy, for 28 years. The couple resides in Owasso and has four children, Joe, Elizabeth, Michah, and Lauren.