Whether they relocated from London or lived in Lawton all their lives and regardless of their upbringing in the big city or a sharecropper farm, entrepreneurs have found Lawton-Fort Sill an ideal place to build a business – and a family.
When Craig and Janie Billingsley decided to expand their auto dealership into Lawton-Fort Sill in 1997, they decided to move their family there too. “I told our children that we were going on an adventure and if we were not having fun as a family, we would move on,” Janie said. “We have never looked back and had a wonderful, fun ride all the way. Our children thrived here when younger and are now thriving as adults.
“This area is a perfect fit for our down-to-earth personalities,” she said. “When we first moved here, people welcomed us with open arms. Our son and his wife chose to return here after living in both the OKC and Dallas area. We love the international flair, the convenience to fly anywhere with our American Airlines airport, and the ease of getting to two large metro areas within a couple of hours.
“I also love that you can go anywhere in Lawton and hear so many different languages and cultures. And we love supporting our Fort Sill soldiers that come from all over the world and their families that come with them.”
Billingsley said Lawton-Fort Sill also proved to be a fertile ground for the family’s portfolio of auto-related businesses spread across Oklahoma – four car dealerships, three insurance offices and a car maintenance center. Lawton-Fort Sill provided the Billingsleys with 120 of their 220 employees, filling their need for skills ranging from finance officers to service techs, from janitors to securities-licensed insurance agents.
The owners of another car dealership – Ervin and Bridget Randle of Classic Lawton Chevrolet – came from very different paths before landing happily in Oklahoma. Bridget grew up in middle-class Minneapolis-St. Paul. Ervin grew up in a two-room shack with no running water in rural Texas, his father a share cropper and his mother a maid.
Ervin made a major life change when he played NFL football for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs in 1985-1993. He then married Bridget and began a second career selling cars in Dallas.
“I had always been a big-city girl,” Bridget Randle said. “But when the Chevy dealership in Lawton became available in 2015, we decided to buy it.
“We debated whether to keep our dream house in Dallas and just rent a house in Lawton. But we realized that if we were going to make this work, we would have to become part of the community.”
They haven’t regretted it, Randle said. “We see deer and elk. It’s so easy to get around compared to a big city. And the people are so friendly. We know the mayor and the chief of police. You won’t get that in a big city.
“Every day new people come through our door and we get to know them on a personal basis. We stress a family atmosphere with our employees – which, they don’t work for us, we’re in this together.”
Jim and Yvonne Landmark have lived all over the world. But when it came time to settle down and start a business of their own, they knew there was only one place to do it – Lawton-Fort Sill.
“Like a lot of people here, my husband was an Army kid,” Yvonne Landmark said. “Jim was born in Germany. But on a couple of deployments they were posted at Fort Sill and the family decided to make Lawton their home.”
After Jim married Yvonne, a native of Louisiana, he pursued an international career in information technology. “When Jim retired from British Petroleum three years ago, we were living outside London, England,” Yvonne said. “But we moved from London to Lawton and started a UPS store.”
“Lawton-Fort Sill has moderate weather. It has mountains. It’s a nice place to raise a family,” Yvonne said.
Family links and family-friendly atmosphere also persuaded 36-year-old Vincent Saylor to think “Lawton” when he and his wife Brittany decided his career as a lawyer in Alabama was forcing him to miss too many golden changes in their newborn baby. Vincent gave up his law practice and opened a State Farm Insurance agency in Lawton.
“Lawton checked all the boxes for us,” Saylor said. “It has a good school system and plenty of things to do. Community involvement seems to be getting more exciting. Lawton will be our home for the next 40 or 50 years.”
Largest Employers in Lawton, Oklahoma
- Ft. Sill Active Duty: 7,351
- DA Civilians: 2,853
- Goodyear Tire and Rubber: 2,650
- Lawton Public School: 2,500
- Comanche County Memorial Hospital: 2,192
- Government Contractors: 1,623
- City of Lawton: 900
- Walmart/Sam’s Club: 850
- Cameron University: 800
- Southwestern Hospital: 550
- Serco: 400
Back Office Data Center
- Bar S Foods: 350
- Great Plains Technology Center: 280
- Republic Paper Board: 150
- Silver Line Plastics: 120