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.
“In the past we've pulled together this ad hoc team from the city, Urban Renewal and a variety of trusts to put together whatever project we had at the moment,” O'Connor said. “The idea is to institutionalize our approach to economic development.
“The idea is that entities like the city of Oklahoma City and the Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust will contract with The Alliance to coordinate projects we have ahead.”
Nichols said a company looking at Oklahoma City will be able to work with just The Alliance, and not several different offices, to assemble deals. Similar organizations exist in Kansas City and St. Louis.
“It's the chamber's job to get someone to Oklahoma City,” Nichols said. “Once they come to Oklahoma City, and they have questions about the government and who to deal with, they will come to this group to get everything started.”
Nichols and O'Connor couldn't detail specific projects to be handled by The Alliance other than a convention hotel the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber hopes to attract to downtown in conjunction with construction of a new convention center.
O'Connor said proceedings of the existing public trusts will still be subject to the Oklahoma Open Meetings and Open Records laws. She was unsure whether the expenditures of The Alliance, which will operate with public funding, will be subject to open records laws.
With creation of The Alliance, O'Connor would step down as assistant city manager. She said Thursday the operation would consist of herself and maybe an assistant or secretary. The organization will not be housed with the chamber.
Couch said the group, which is tentatively set to begin operations May 1, is needed.
“Repeatedly over the past several years we have been presented with huge development opportunities — the Dell campus, the Skirvin hotel, Bass Pro Shop to name a few,” Couch said. “Each time that occurs, we pull staff from here and there to put together the project, and we get the job done, but there is a better way. This new partnership gives us ongoing resources that can be focused on these programs every day. We will have the resources to apply to a broader variety of projects and be more effective.”
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.
• 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.