Nocona is a city that has steadily maintained—with few exceptions—prosperity and energy over more than a hundred years, despite the fact that industries responsible for its livelihood have come and gone. World-famous Justin Boots, established in Nocona in 1889 but moved to Fort Worth in 1925, gave way to Nocona Boot Company that closed in 1999. Fenoglio Boot Company now produces boots here and Nokona (with a K) is the only American made baseball glove in the US. Our city of only about 3,000 citizens also offers employment via an envelope factory, a machine shop for airplanes, a brewery, orchid and plant production, and numerous other small and large businesses.
We are lucky in more ways than one. We are home to the only hospital in the county, have fiber-based internet, and a community where the haves do not shy away from helping the have-nots. We have benefitted from the revenues of the oil and gas industry in our region, and have other natural resources to enjoy, such as Lake Nocona.
We also have challenges to face. And although I have only been a resident of Nocona for five years, I know that the city has faced challenges throughout its history. When asked what has made Nocona successful in facing those challenges, I think the answer boils down to hard work and taking the responsibility to face the future.
Every business and project has a shelf life. If we fail to look ahead to the time when a particular industry or plan will begin to arc downward, we won’t be able to recover from the inevitable change in cycle in time to keep the momentum for growth and prosperity going. While you are enjoying success, continue to rethink options and come up with new outside-of-the-box ideas.
Right now, Nocona is working on at least two challenges. One is the need for a more vibrant downtown with increased retail outlets and restaurants for our residents and visitors. Another is the need for a trained, skilled labor force. While we are lucky to have a diversity of employers and attractions like the Horton Classic Car Museum, Tales ‘n’ Trails Museum, artists and galleries, we want to be ready for the future—to continue to bring visitors in and offer quality of life for those who live here.
To address both challenges, we are looking at the concrete steps we can take. A current goal is the creation of a community sports complex—on a donated 40-acre parcel of land—that will bring hosted sports tournaments to the area at least 40 weeks out of each year and bring in outside revenue each weekend – benefiting the community with the use of the hotels, gas stations, restaurants, community services, and retail spin-off. Included in the overall project will be an “Angel Field” for handicapped youth and adults to be able to learn and play baseball. Also “hand in glove” will be the creation of a Vocational School with the initial focus on nursing, EMT training, and fire safety training to provide local youth an avenue for professional development and employment within the community. The vocational training can also prepare young people for jobs or businesses to serve the oil and gas industry—jobs that won’t be subject to the fluctuations of boom and bust unemployment periods.
We are also preparing to beautify our downtown area, along Clay Street with refurbishment of downtown landmarks.
We have been inspired by our fellow community leaders in the IC² Regional XLR8 program and hope that these ideas serve to inspire others. The networking among the group of community leaders can surely help us think of new ideas to help the small and rural communities of Texas!
Community Leaders Speak is a series of writings prompted by the discussions during IC2 Regional XLR8 Program which convenes 150 leaders from 58 communities across all regions of Texas, September – October 2020. As a part of the IC2 Regional Economic Recovery Initiative, Regional XLR8 is a new type of “accelerator” that helps communities rethink recovery, take strategic action, and build resilience. During this intensive 6-week program, leaders actively engaged in full & regional group discussions around human-centered approaches.