My entire adolescent life, I thought of getting away from this small country town of Durant, Oklahoma, and trying something new like joining the Navy would be the place where I would start my journey towards bright lights and big city living. Looking back now, however, I can’t say it was just the feeling of wanting to get away that made me leave, it was, at that time, the lack of opportunities and resources usually characterized by small towns.
When I decided to return home, I had no idea what I was in store for, but was glad I came back. My mature self immediately fell in love with a vibrant community that I now saw as the best place to raise a family, pursue my professional aspirations, and still have that small-town feel and big-city amenities.
During the past few years, Durant, Oklahoma has cultivated its own distinctive identity. A few reasons behind the growing popularity of Durant can best be attributed to its strong economic base, arts & music community, thriving culture, restaurant diversity, world-class educational opportunities, and of course, its own “Country Goodness” style.
Today, Durant, Oklahoma is fast becoming a hub to businesses and organizations alike, creating more job opportunities than the national average. Commercial Metals Company or CMC, has recently chosen the city as the site for the construction of its newest micro mill. Come 2017, Commercial Metals Company is expected to create at least 300 jobs in the area. Alorica Inc. is looking for additional customer care representatives and service agents (Alorica), while BrucePac, a meat processing company, will soon be remodeling an old food processing plant in Durant, and it is anticipated to generate around 200 jobs upon moving into the facility (Park).
In addition to several major companies being drawn to the area, home sales are also contributing to the revitalized and bustling economy of Durant. While home sales have increased 8% year-over-year, the average home sale price in Durant has held steady for the past several years. (Realtor.com)
It is also interesting to note the cultural rise that is seen throughout Durant today. The Oklahoma Arts Council listed Durant among the cities that have been granted funding for various community projects. In the council website, the Oklahoma Shakespearean Festival received organizational support for its arts learning projects. The Red River Arts Council was given a major grant support for its Red River Drum & Auxiliary Camp and Southeastern Swings Jazzfest. In addition, the musical arts series of Southeastern Oklahoma State University had also been given major grant support. More so, the city of Durant received an endowment for the creation of an arts district that will be a venue for community workshops and public art displays. (Spring 2016 State City Grant List) Such funding from the government will enhance and promote the city’s vitality and enrich the cultural awareness of its residents.
To further uplift the quality of life in the city, the National Park Service has also provided Durant some assistance for the conservation of its rivers and trails. Funding was provided for city planning, a farmer’s market, a community website, free citywide Wi-Fi access, and to establish the Nowa Oka walking trail that connects the whole community. (Imagine Durant)
All of these projects are managed under the community-based initiative called Imagine Durant. At the Bryan County Health Department, a community garden is now being started. Shopping in downtown Durant is a pleasure with the Magnolia Farmers Market which supports the local growers, hence boosting the already thriving local economy even further (Imagine Durant 2).
Of course, a city isn’t complete without its sights and local attractions. Durant is a treasure trove of museums and historic sites waiting to be explored. Main Street, a revitalization program funded by local investors, merchants, and financial institutions, was also established to promote a healthy and vibrant downtown scene. Local festivals, programs, exhibits, and events are regularly scheduled to make the heart of Durant an attractive and dynamic district (Durant Main Street Org).
Among its festivities, people look forward to the Magnolia Festival which is an annual favorite of both locals and tourists. Every year, the celebrations get bigger, better, and brighter. With family-friendly entertainment such as parades, bike tours, rodeos, pageants, carnivals, and hundreds of booths showcasing local products, there is really something for everyone here. The events usually take place around the last week of May to the first week of June; so better plan ahead for this one. (Magnolia Festival)
When it comes to educational excellence, Durant takes pride in its academic institutions. Durant Public School students achieve higher performance ratings than the state average. It consistently produces National Merit Scholars and around 60% of its graduates move to college. This success is attributed to Durant’s highly-effective and dedicated educators & faculty members, with 71% advanced degree holders (Durant ISD).
With over 3,600 enrolled students, the community considers education among its core priorities. There is a strong involvement of parents, teachers, and volunteers in bringing out the best in its youth.
Just recently, Jon Hazell, a Durant High School science teacher, was named 2017 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year. Along with 12 other teacher finalists, the awards symbolize the fervent commitment of the local educators to challenge, motivate, and inspire their students (SDE newsblog).
Balanced learning is cultivated in the Durant Public School system. Students are regularly exposed in greater depth to areas of athletics, student organizations, and fine arts. In fact, the Durant High School Band is ranked among the best bands in Oklahoma. It has received the OSSAA Sweepstakes Award for 4 straight years. The band has been consistently awarded with straight one scores at the annual OSSAA West Regional Marching Competition for the past 15 years, a feat no other high school band has ever achieved in history (Durant ISD 2).
But that’s not all there is to this city. Durant also provides a superior source of higher education, through the Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Its online MBA program was recently cited as one of the best degree programs in business administration. As the second most affordable, high quality MBA program in the country, Southeastern Oklahoma State University has put Durant on the map as one of the top locations for pursuing higher education (University Communications).
It may have taken a while for Durant to reach its renaissance, but now that it has taken hold, the city is now undergoing a rapid improvement and growth. The revitalization is becoming more evident in its economic climate, local culture, and educational system.
In closing, there is something special about my hometown…it’s the place I grew up…it’s the place I left behind when I went off to the Navy….and now, it’s the place I can’t imagine ever leaving.
8 Jobs in Durant, OK. Alorica. Web. 19 Sept. 2016.
Housing Market in Durant, OK. Realtor.com. Web. 20 Sept. 2016.
Magnolia Festival of Oklahoma. Magnolia Festival. Web. 19 Sept. 2016.
Spring 2016 State City Grant List. Arts.gov. PDF file. Web. 19 Sept. 2016
Commercial Metals Company. Commercial Metals Company Selects Durant, Oklahoma,
for New Micro Mill. July 27 2015. PR Newswire. Web. 18 Sept. 2016.
Durant ISD. There’s No Better Place to Learn. Durant Independent School District. Web. 19 Sept. 2016.
Durant ISD. The Pride of Durant. Durant Independent School District. Web. 19 Sept. 2016.
Durant Main Street. Vision Statement. Durant Main Street Program. Web. 20 Sept. 2016.
Imagine Durant. Walking Trail. Imagine Durant Org. Web. 20 Sept. 2016.
Imagine Durant. Magnolia Farmers Market. Imagine Durant Org. Web. 20 Sept. 2016.
Park, Ashley. New Company to operate in old Durant plant. 12 Jan 2015. Kxii.com. Web. 20 Sept. 2016.
SDEmedia. Jon Hazell of Durant named 2017 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year. August 30 2016. Oklahoma
State Department of Education. Web. 20 Sept. 2016.
University Communications. Southeastern’s online MBA program recognized among “best” by U.S. News
& World Report Rankings. January 15 2015. Southeastern Oklahoma State University.
Web. 20 Sept. 2016.