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New nonprofit is established to spearhead economic development in OKC

A new nonprofit organization to be led by current Assistant City Manager Cathy O'Connor is asking for $424,000 in public funding to start a “one-stop shop” for economic development.
BY STEVE LACKMEYER slackmeyer@opubco.com Published: April 8, 2011
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A new nonprofit organization to be led by current Assistant City Manager Cathy O'Connor is asking for $424,000 in public funding to start a “one-stop shop” for economic development.

The proposal to fund and create “The Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City” will be submitted to the Oklahoma City Council on Tuesday.

The funding includes $56,000 for the last two months of the current fiscal year ending June 30, and another $368,000 for the 2012 fiscal year.

Sources will include tax increment funding overseen by the Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust, the MAPS 3 use tax and the city's general fund. More appropriations would be sought annually under the proposed five-year contract.

Need for ‘fast track'

The proposal calls for additional, unspecified amounts to be provided by the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority, which is largely supported with federal funds and land sale proceeds. Devon Energy Corp. Executive Chairman Larry Nichols, who will chair the new organization, said it is needed to “fast track” development projects.

“Oklahoma City is at a unique stage in its growth,” Nichols said. “As a community, we have implemented strategies that are attracting investment in our city at an ever-increasing rate, yet the process and entities to help facilitate that growth have been the same for many years.”

O'Connor has received rave reviews in recent years for her work on some of the city's most notable projects, including the redevelopment of the Skirvin Hilton Hotel, creation of public/private financial packages that brought Dell Computers, Boeing and others to bring hundreds of jobs to Oklahoma City. Other projects include incentives that brought Bass Pro Shops to Bricktown and creation of a tax increment financing district that fueled the $141 million Project 180 makeover of downtown's streets, sidewalks and parks.

Oklahoma City already provides annual funding to the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber for economic recruitment.

O'Connor said the new organization will not replace the economic development trust or Urban Renewal and policymaking will remain with those entities. The new organization, she said, will expedite deals and focus on implementation.

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Larry Nichols to be chair

Larry Nichols, executive chairman of Devon Energy, will serve as chairman of The Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City with a board consisting of Roy Williams, president of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber; businessman Clayton I. Bennett; former Mayor Ron Norick; city council members Pat Ryan and Meg Salyer; City Manager Jim Couch; and representatives of the Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust, the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority, the Oklahoma City Industrial and Cultural Facilities Trust and the Oklahoma Industries Authority.

Duties

Duties of “The Alliance” will include coordination, management, planning and implementation of the following tasks:

• The city's economic development incentives.

• The city's retail incentives.

• Redevelopment traditionally handled by the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority.

• Identification and development of job creation sites.

• Public/private redevelopment opportunities generated by MAPS 3, specifically a new convention center hotel.

• Implementation of required financing associated with projects.

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