Economic Development director keeping eye on the future

 Shelldon Miggletto says regionalism is relevant in meeting all the needs of communities, so he looks to Westville, Tahlequah, Sallisaw or Siloam to meet those needs next. Here he checks out the new astroturf installed at the fletcher Park playground.

Renee Fite | Democrat Journal

Shelldon Miggletto, director of Economic Development, works to foster an environment conducive to increase economic investment and impact to the community. 

These activities include new business development, business retention and expansion (BR&E), Infrastructure such as utilities, streets and drainage. Housing and health care are also components of a productive economy. 

“Stilwell is so very fortunate to still have a hospital for a community our size. We are also fortunate the Cherokee Nation is making substantial investments in the health care needs of tribal citizens,” Miggletto said.

These are all part of the economy that provide employment and meet health care needs of patients, but they also bring people from outside the community who come to Stilwell, see their physicians, and then hopefully shop, eat or fuel up here. 

“We are in need of housing, good quality housing both for renters and homebuyers. We are seeing increased demand and our inventory of housing doesn't meet that demand. We are working with some potential builders interested in starting new homes, and we currently have some new rental properties being constructed in various parts of the city,” said Miggletto.

The challenge of finding solutions, learning something new and the variety of his day are among the reasons Miggletto enjoys the position.

“I also enjoy being a part of the solution for whatever our city is facing or trying to accomplish,” he said.

In 2020, the city issued building permits just shy of $70 million in new construction, thanks in large part to Schwan's and Cherokee Nation. 

“In 2021, we have already had $1.8 million in new construction with more to come very soon,” he said.

The city is actively pursuing businesses where there is a gap or a need in the community. 

“We have been talking with some developers, brokers and investors about the positive economic numbers coming out of Stilwell and also the new employment opportunities, which are really strong for a community of our size,” Miggletto said.

He enjoys working with small business owners or potential business owners about plans and determining how he can facilitate resources that might help them succeed.

“It can be as simple as helping them fill out a business plan template that really helps them think through the process to open or purchase a business. Talking through the process of financing, accounting, logistics, staffing, etc. is something that is needed for any small business to succeed,” he said. 

He is also trying to cross-market products or services of other local businesses. 

“For example, I think Mountain View products should be on every menu in town; mild links for me! Also, Edwards Pies or Mrs. Smith's cobblers should be widely available, too – Key Lime, please! Connecting small businesses to local professionals in banking, accounting, legal services, insurance, etc. can also boost the local economy. Relationships in those areas can be critical to success,” he said.

The workforce is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to filling all the jobs available.  

“Several manufacturers in our area have been raising the starting wage, which in turn gives opportunity to the workforce to advance into a higher-paying job and leaving some of the entry-level positions. It seems like you can't go a single day without seeing a sign on a business that is hiring, ads on the newspaper or social media posts for businesses looking for employees. It is definitely good to be a job seeker right now,” Miggletto said.

Communication is key to changing perception, not just outside this community but within.  

“Overcoming past stories – accurate or not – about the community can take a long time to shake off. For so many years, we have been affected by how other people told the story of Stilwell. I think we have to be better about telling our own story,” he said. 

He’s pleased to see the progress in revitalizing downtown. 

“I like to see people taking renewed pride in the community. I appreciate the city's efforts in cleaning up the city. It comes with change, but change is sometimes necessary to affect positive results,” he said.

When someone off the street told him the city is looking better than it has in 30 years, he was pleased.

“That was a comment made to me recently from a retired gentleman who lives outside of town and has been retired for probably 20 years or more. Unsolicited but appreciated, nonetheless,” he said.

Seeing people have renewed interest in what's going on in city and county government – people recognizing their need to participate in the process to prosper the community – makes Miggletto glad to be a part of the movement.

Along with his job, he volunteers and serves as a board member for the Northeast Oklahoma Regional Alliance, chairman of the Honey Hill Cemetery Board, treasurer for First Baptist Church and on the Parks and Recreation committee for the city.