By Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton For the Tulsa World
Claremore does not want to go gray just yet.
In an effort to attract and keep younger professionals in the Rogers County community, the Claremore Industrial and Economic Development Authority launched the Claremore Collective in January 2016 as a workforce development initiative. In its first year alone, more than 600 people attended the organization’s events.
“We’re pulling people in, engaging them and bringing them out of the woodwork,” executive director Meggie Froman-Knight said. “Especially from a young professionals perspective, if there are cool things near where you work, you want to live near there and spend your free time there, too.”
A partner organization to the Tulsa Young Professionals, the group is primarily aimed at Claremore residents in their 20s, 30s and early 40s. Although the membership numbers tend to skew slightly older than their Tulsa counterpart, Froman-Knight is quick to point out that participation is not restricted to area millennials and Generation X’ers.
“Our programming is targeted at young professionals,” she said. “However, unless you want to serve on the leadership team, there’s no age cap. If you’re young at heart, you’re welcome to come out and get involved.”
The organization is made up of five crews: Arts and Entertainment, Attraction, Development, Government Relations and Next Gen Leadership. Members can participate in one or more groups by volunteering for initiatives and attending monthly meetings, including mixers and lunch time “think tank” sessions that allow attendees to pitch what they want the future of Claremore to look like, such as the addition of a dog park.
Since its official rollout, the organization has already seen one of its short term goals come to fruition: the expansion of mountain bike trails around Claremore Lake. With an assist from the Claremore Collective, the trails added 4.5 miles in 2016, thus drawing additional bicycle traffic from across the region.
The group has also been active in the community’s efforts to bring more businesses to its downtown district, which has experienced $10 million in private investments over the last year. In November, the Claremore Collective facilitated a group tour of the recently expanded downtown area in Bentonville, Arkansas, to provide inspiration moving forward.
In the coming months, the organization will be working with developers and stakeholders, including Rogers State University, the Will Rogers Museum and the Claremore Expo to build up the West Bend District as an entertainment destination.
“We want to help enhance the community with things you might not expect to see in a smaller town,” Froman-Knight said.
A popular Claremore destination for locals and tourists is the Will Rogers Memorial Museum. The museum houses a collection of archives, films, personal belongings and memorabilia of America’s most beloved humorist and cowboy philosopher. It sits on a hill overlooking the city of Claremore.
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