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Schaffitzel talks Highland Industrial Park at Kiwanis

by Bradly Gill | December 22, 2021 at 5:00 a.m.
Photo by Michael Hanich John Schaffitzel, President and CEO of Highland Industrial Park, spoke to the Camden Kiwanis Club about his experience in Camden so far and his plans for the park.

In October 2021, John Schaffitzel assumed the role of Highland Industrial Park CEO and President, taking over the position from long time president Gene Hill.

But this was hardly Schaffitzel's first time involvement with an industrial park as he had previously been the executive director of real estate and development at Oklahoma's Mid America for six years.

On Thursday, John Schaffitzel spoke to the Camden Kiwanis Club on his impressions of Camden and his hopes for activity in the park.

"I'm excited about this opportunity that's been laid before me to move here and work for Highland Industrial Park," Schaffitzel said, "I came here from MidAmerica Industrial Park in Pryor, Oklahoma. It's a similar campus as far that it was a World War II plant that made black powder and TNT on site."

Schaffitzel said that he would like to see a mixture of industry at Highland.

He said "Some of my concern is the defense industry and how reliant we are on the defense industry, not saying we're going to change anything about that". Adding that it couldn't hurt to look into alternative paths of industry.

One of his main goals is workforce retention, which he says can be bolstered by making Camden more attractive to the existing workforce population.

He said that he plans to focus on, "What do we do about workforce? how are we handling quality of life ? who are the partners in the community running these things? and what are the desires to do this?"

One project he spearheaded in Pryor was the construction of a BMX track. Schaffitzel himself is a BMX cyclist listed as an expert rider by the American Bicycle Association.

"For us it was all workforce related, because we were trying to develop activities for kids to get engaged," he said.

Schaffitzel said it's crucial to keep the younger population from moving away.

"Talking to one of our college graduates and trying to keep her here was a hard sell. I ended up losing her today," he said.

The industries in Highland are also faced with a labor shortage, something that they have spoken to Schaffitzel about.

"First thing when I sat down withe with Aerojet, Spectra and Arm-Tech and they were like 'Where do we get the employees for these jobs. ' I can see where I'll have a lot of focus in that area," he said.

"I don't see a lot of change in the park, it's going to be about the existing industries," he said.

Schaffitzel said his first visit to Camden included visiting Native Dog brewery and eating at local restaurants.

He's also met with SAU Tech Chancellor Jason Morrison and Ouachita Partnership for Economic Development Director James Lee Silliman, both organizations that are instrumental to workforce development in Highland Park.

And even though he has stepped down from is role as president, Gene Hill has stayed on as an executive consultant and will help Schaffitzel with his transition.

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