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    January 01, 2016
    Okmulgee Business Complex Wins Phoenix Award
    The Okmulgee Area Development Corporation recently won two Phoenix Awards for the remediation and redevelopment of the former Phillips 66 refinery now known as the Okmulgee Business Complex--the Region 6 Award and the National Grand Prize Award.  The Phoenix Awards™ inspire and recognize exemplary redevelopment and revitalization of environmentally contaminated areas that have been returned to tax producing and job generating properties.
    Region 6 Phoenix Award
    There are ten US Environmental Protection Agency regions in the United States.  Oklahoma is in Region 6 which includes the states of New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and 66 Tribes.  All brownfield sites in a region are eligible to complete for the regional award.  Okmulgee Business Complex was selected as the winner from Region 6. 
    Grand Prize Award
    The Grand Prize Award is the national award and is selected as the best project in the United States from the ten regional award winners.  The Okmulgee Business Complex was announced as the Grand Prize Winner at the awards ceremony at the National Brownfield Conference.
    Winning the Grand Prize Award in addition to the Regional Award places Okmulgee at a level of recognition that is reserved for one project each year in the United States.
    The Okmulgee Area Development Corporation (OADC)  was recognized and honored at the National Brownfields Conference in Chicago on September 3, 2015.  The OADC won two Phoenix Awards™.  The Phoenix Awards™ inspire and recognize exemplary redevelopment and revitalization of environmentally contaminated areas that have been returned to tax producing and job generating properties. OADC received the 2013 Region 6 Phoenix Award™ and the 2015 National Phoenix Award.  The OADC was the recipient of the awards for the renewal of the Okmulgee Refinery which operated in Okmulgee from 1909 until 1982 when it was permanently closed.  The closing of the refinery was an economic blow to the community because it employed some 350 full-time workers and dozens of part-time workers. At the time that the refinery was closed it was highly contaminated and a major environmental liability for the community.  
    The refinery opened in 1909 and until 1930 was operated by various owners.  Records indicate that between 1915 and 1925, 100 million barrels of oil were refined on the site.  In 1930 Phillips Petroleum Company purchased the refinery and operated it until 1966.  Between 1966 and 1980 OKC Refining Company operated the refinery.  In 1980 Basin Refining Company purchased the refinery and was forced into bankruptcy soon thereafter.  The OADC decided to take ownership of the site in 1977 rather than allow it to be sold by a bankruptcy sale.  The president of Basin Refining Company signed a Quitclaim Deed on June 6, 1977 transferring ownership of the site to the Okmulgee Area Development Corporation.  
    The Board of Directors OADC had an ambitious vision of what they wanted to see happen on the site but probably had little insight into the daunting task that was in front of them or the length of time needed to accomplish the vision.  The task of changing the refinery site from an environmental liability to an asset could have been accomplished in one of two ways-- either through the federal government’s super fund program or a private sector collaborative.  
    Fortunately, the leadership of the OADC Board was able to orchestrate a private sector collaborative partnership. The partnership that assumed the responsibility for the cleanup of the site was not typical and was formed in a relatively short period of time.  Phillips Petroleum Company owned the site for the longest period of time and stepped-up to take the lead in cleaning-up the site with major assistance from the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.  Both organizations highly value safety and protected the public from experiencing any negative environmental issues during the entire clean-up effort.  The other partners that contributed to the revitalization of the site were the City of Okmulgee, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and the Okmulgee Area Development Corporation.
    The major partners of the coalition developed a model working relationship during the course of the cleanup of the site.  This positive relationship required a great deal of nurturing because of the complexity of the cleanup, the length of time the cleanup consumed.  Through perseverance, trust and a commitment to achieve the end goal the partners stayed the course. This was a multi-million dollar cleanup effort which took 16 years.  The rehabilitation of the site started in 1996 and was completed in February 2012 when the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality issued the Okmulgee Area Development Corporation a Brown Field Certificate No Action Necessary.
    These entities worked together to transform a heavily contaminated area into 130 acres of prime real estate specifically created to provide space for small commercial retail and medium-size industrial development.  Where once there was a large area of unproductive land, the rural community of Okmulgee now has a prime piece of development property that is generating both real estate and sales taxes for the area. 
    While the effort may have started with a somewhat imprecise vision for what was possible and certainly dealt with ambiguity and many significant changes over the time of the cleanup, the end result is remarkable.  Through the collaboration of multiple partners, the greater Okmulgee area now has a 'Certified Brownfield No Action Necessary' site.  The site is creating jobs and producing tax revenue on the way to helping recreate economic prosperity and hope for this rural American town.