Waukomis, Oklahoma, is experiencing a mini-resurgence, in part due to two investors who grew up in the community.
This tiny community of about 1,400 people located a few hours from Tulsa and Oklahoma City is getting some renewed interest from visitors and residents alike thanks to new developments, driven by Mo and Richard Anderson.
The couple has invested in their hometown as a way to showcase what an injection of investment money can do for a community.
“We’ve had a love for this place. And it was nurturing. It was vibrant and alive, and as I said before, it was really, genuinely wonderful,” said Mo Anderson, former CEO of Keller Williams Realty and current vice-chairman.
”Through the years, we’ve watched it just die bit by bit. All of these wonderful immigrant families… the mothers and fathers passed, their children moved to the big city. They didn’t come back. And so the little town just literally has withered up and died.”
Years ago, after the couple had moved away, they visited and drove through the town. To Richard’s surprise, Mo joked about investing in the community. Later, though, Richard had a chance to buy some property in town, which he did, turning it into a home away from home.
That home away from home recently turned into Buffalo Point Retreat, a luxury getaway right in the heart of the community, that offers respite and relaxation with Oklahoma-themed accommodations, a pool and hot tub, a small vineyard, and more.
A few blocks away sits Main Street. Drive down it and it’s nearly impossible not to see the impact the Andersons have had on the small community. From the Painted Buffalo Trading Co., which sells made in Oklahoma products, to Mo’s Place, a bustling diner, to a small apartment complex housing cadets from nearby Vance Air Force Base to a chapel, the Andersons are leaving their mark on the community.
And that is just what Mo Anderson has hoped for.
Together, the couples’ enterprises in Waukomis employ about 15 people, with salaries ranging from hourly with tips to $75,000 annually for the highest-paid positions, said Gene Anderson, the couples’ asset manager. For comparison, the average family median annual income in Garfield County – where Waukomis is located – is $54,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Waukomis is where the family’s roots lie, Gene Anderson said. “We’re trying to make Waukomis a destination point.”
Dani Davis, for one, is excited about the new developments.
“I think it is great for the community,” said the Waukomis resident who works at nearby Vance Air Force Base. “The new restaurant and shops give us more and we don’t have to always go to Enid for something. We can keep it local, in our community.”
She added that she is excited to see what the future holds for the community.
According to the Oklahoma Historical Society, Waukomis’ population peaked in 1980, with about 1,550 residents. Agriculture remains the main industry, though many residents travel to nearby Enid for work and entertainment options.
Though tourists are the main draw for the revitalization efforts in Waukomis, the Andersons hope young people also remain in the town. With that, they’ll need jobs, which the Andersons hope to create through their varied ventures.
The family has also given scholarships to local students.
“Everyone needs to consider what they want their legacy to be and a lot of people don’t think about that at all – that you want your life to count for something,” Mo Anderson said.