Inspire • Equip • Restore

Developing Thriving Downtown Communities

We have an insidious problem in this country. The specter of small town decline is spreading as rural communities everywhere are struggling. Concerned citizens watch helplessly as their populations are declining, businesses failing, downtowns are being abandoned, and hometown pride is slowly fading. These citizens fear for the continued viability of their beloved hometowns but don’t know what to do. They need help but don’t know where to turn or who to trust.

Sometimes the best thing that can be done for a small town in this situation is to bring in an outside consultant, an expert with a fresh perspective. It is strange, but a new set of eyes can oftentimes help us see the obvious things that our eyes cannot or will not see. The solutions might be right in front of us, but sometimes it takes an outsider to help us see them. It takes someone who can help us assess our available resources and focus on what we have rather than on what we lack. It takes someone with firsthand experience in bringing back a community from the brink of economic disaster—someone who knows how to engage local volunteers and overcome detractors.

The small town where I live found such a person in Ron Drake. He helped his own hometown of Siloam Springs, Arkansas to successfully reclaim its downtown area and was personally responsible for the renovation of 15 historic buildings there. Ron brought the lessons he learned there and taught residents in my community how to pull together and how to succeed. Okmulgee, Oklahoma is well on its way to recovery thanks to the encouragement and confidence that Ron Drake instilled in us. The solutions existed within our community and Mr. Drake was able to open our eyes to them.

Ron Drake helped my institution discover a way to become part of the solution for our failing community. With his guidance, my college was able to purchase historic buildings in downtown Okmulgee and renovate them into popular loft apartments for our students. This arrangement has become a genuine “win-win” for our campus and community. Ron Drake definitely earned my trust and enthusiastic recommendation. He can help your struggling small town as he helped ours.

Dr. Bill R. Path, President
Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology
Okmulgee, Oklahoma

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