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What is the difference between The Poteau (Area) Improvement Project and the Mountain Gateway Community Alliance?
The primary difference between the two entities is in corporate structure and ownership.
The Poteau Improvement Project is a registered 501c3 and is governed by a board of directors. The main role of the P(a)IP is in planning and development, resourse aquisition, and project management.
The Mountain Gateway Community Alliance is a for-profit benefit company established and owned by Eric Standridge. The main role of the MGCA is in physical implimentation of projects that benefit the community.
What is the Poteau Improvement Project?
The Poteau Improvement Project was founded in 2010 to address different “problem” areas throughout Poteau. The concept came about during discussions with former Poteau mayor Don Barnes. Together, a basic framework for improving the socio-economic outlook for Poteau was created.
This plan originally covered Cavanal Hill, Downtown Poteau, area parks, and tourism. From 2010 until Don’s passing, several studies and surveys were completed throughout the area. The surveys were answered by just under 3,000 residents, which gave us a good framework for improvements. Once the research phase was completed, a full-scale plan was created and the process to begin incorporation was started. However, before the project could be incorporated, Mr. Barnes passed away. Shortly afterwards, Eric Standridge was asked to take over the director position with Poteau Main Street Matters. An agreement was reached with the board and Mr. Standridge that replaced the existing downtown plan with the one formed by the Poteau Improvement Project. This agrement allowed Standridge to retain control of The Poteau Improvement Project while at the same time rebuilding the PMSM program. Because many parts of the project were centered downtown, this was a perfect fit.
Projects completed during this time involved new sidewalks, streets, facade improvements, park upgrades, and so on. These were long-term sustainable projects that would affect the area far into the future. The core project as developed by the Poteau Improvement Project was completed in 2016, however, Standridge remained on until 2017.
In late 2017, the Poteau Improvement Project was officially legally formed. Many of the projects developed in 2010 were carried forward. Concurrently, additional studies and surveys were created to update the goals and objectives of the Poteau Improvement Project.
As of January 2018, the majority of the studies and surveys have been completed and the organization is moving forward with the planning process. It is anticipated that this should be done before spring so that implimentation of the projects can begin with the warmer weather. The primary purpose of the Poteau Improvement Project today is to support ongoing projects as physicallly implimented by the Mountain Gateway Community Alliance.
How does the Poteau Improvement Project Operate?
The organization is goverened by a three member board of directors. Regular Meetings are held once a year. These meetings cover policy decisions and governance of the organization as required by the Internal Revenue Service and applicable Oklahoma Laws. Non-regular meetings are held as requested by board majority and are scheduled and posted one week prior to the meeting.
What is the Mountain Gateway Community Alliance?
The Mountain Gateway Community Alliance brings together people who wish to make a difference throughout the tri-city area. The phrase “Tri-City” has been implimented to describe the populated areas of Poteau, Heavener, and Wister.
The organization was founded in November 2017 in order to combine several different entities and projects under one umbrella. The different sections of the Mountain Gateway Community Alliance include:
- Standridge and Shaw Publishing: This is the publishing arm of the MGCA. Previously, it was a seperate entity that was established to publish books such as The Birth of Poteau, Oklahoma Traveler, and Stories of the Mountain Gateway, as well as partner programs such as the Old Town Poteau Magazine and the Historic Downtown Poteau Walking Tour.
- Historical Research and Preservation: This is the historical research arm of the MGCA. Previously, this was a project started by Eric Standridge in 2007 to aquire genealogical information for Mr. Shaw. After aquiring over 4 gigabytes of information on Poteau’s history, a push was made to promote and market different historical stories in an effort to educate the public as well as to create new tourist destination points.
- Tourism and Facility Development: This was originally part of the first rendition of the Poteau Improvement Project, however, many aspects were moved over to the MGCA because of the resources Eric Standridge has aquired through his business “Oklahoma Traveler” and because of his ongoing historical research. Standridge works closely with the Oklahoma Tourism and various towns across the state with Oklahoma Traveler. His role with Oklahoma Traveler is to ghostwrite local history or local attraction articles for various publications across the state.
- Beautification and Community Improvement Projects: These are volunteer activities that are managed by Eric Standridge while working with other entities, such as the P(a)IP, the Salvation Army, Nashoba Youth Foundation, etc. that have a positive impact on the region. The main project revolves around the Healthy Neighborhood Initiative, which is aimed at creating better neighborhoods throughout the region.
How does the Mountain Gateway Community Alliance operate?
The MGCA is solely operated by Eric Standridge. The publishing arm of the MGCA has been in existance since 2003 as the Oklahoma Traveler and continues to be managed as it has since then. This includes publications and historical research. The community arm is partially managed by The Poteau Improvement Project and partially by a community improvement committee.
How are you funded?
As a non-profit, the Poteau Improvement Project is funded entirely through donations and fundraisers. The amount of progress that is made depends on the amount of money that can be raised through these practices. The director and anyone who works with the Poteau Improvement Project does not draw a salary. Additionally, the P(a)IP does not have any permanent facilities. This allows any money that is raised by the P(a)IP to go directly back into community reinvestments and improvements.
The Mountain Gateway Community Alliance is funded through Oklahoma Traveler, books, online publications including those through Hubpages and Patreon, print publications, and certain events. The owner draws a salary through Oklahoma Traveler and recieves a small percentage of revenue generated by books, print and online publications, not to exceed $25,000 a year.
Projects that are implimented by the MGCA and managed by the Poteau Improvement Project are partially funded by the P(a)IP and subcontracted out to the MGCA. Any projects that are paid for through the P(aIP) are required to have majority board approval and the accompanying documentation allowing the MGCA to carry out those projects. Projects that are managed by the community improvement committee are funded entirely by Eric Standridge.