CUSHING — Rodger Floyd often uses the sign in front of his Davis Funeral Home to send encouraging notes to his neighbors and welcome visitors.
He put up a special message Tuesday morning: “Welcome Mr. President. God bless America.”
“I never thought I'd be welcoming the president,” Floyd said. “I'm very pleased that the president is coming. Whether you voted for him or not, this is big for Cushing.”
A community of just more than 8,000 — including about 1,000 at the local prison — Cushing is one of the smallest towns to host a presidential visit in years.
“That's not a whole lot of people for the president of the United States to come to our town to make a visit,” said Ruth Ann Johnson, local historian and retired librarian. “Just knowing he's coming to our little town is exciting.”
Thursday's visit also will give the community a chance to show the president, his staff and the national media the economic growth Cushing has experienced the past five years.
“It's an honor to have the president come to our community,” said City Manager Steven Spears. “It puts us in front of people to let them see the important role Cushing plays for the energy industry and for the entire country.”
Cushing is locally known as the “pipeline crossroads of America,” and its economy is closely tied to the oil industry, which currently has more than 40 million barrels of oil in storage tanks scattered around town. The oil is waiting to move through pipelines to refineries in southern Texas.
President Barack Obama's energy policies often have been at odds with those of the oil industry and Cushing. Still, the president's visit has strong support here.
“We're going to welcome him with open arms and host him as we should and with all due respect,” said Kris Kenzie, owner of the Steer Inn restaurant.
“Maybe we'll be fortunate enough that he'll have positive things to say about energy policy. Maybe we can influence him to change his thoughts on the Keystone XL pipeline. Regardless, we're going to welcome him and respect his position, regardless of political affiliation and energy views.”
The president last month blocked the proposed TransCanada Key
“I'm anxious to hear what he says about his energy policy,” said Brent Thompson, executive director of the Cushing Chamber of Commerce. “We hope that he will be supportive of what we're doing here and will be supportive of continuing to develop our pipeline infrastructure so that we can get oil to here and out of here efficiently.”