NORMAN — City council members say they hope a new policy that allows them to offer economic development incentives will attract new businesses to Norman.
The council voted 8-1 Tuesday to approve the policy. Councilman Greg Jungman voted against it.
“We are literally hanging out a welcome sign for firms to come to our community and say, ‘Well, you're going to have to write me a check or you're going to have to give me a break on my taxes or you're going to have to give me something,'” Jungman said.
Giving incentives sometimes works out, he said, “but often it means that one business just displaces another firm that might have come to Norman.”
Councilman Chad Williams disagreed.
“I think it says we're open for business, that we're ready to compete, that we welcome you to Norman. The potential for this is great,” he said.
New businesses bring more jobs and people to Norman, growing the tax base and improving the quality of life, Williams said.
The policy allows council members to offer something as simple as streamlining the permit process all the way to helping businesses attain favorable loan structuring, Assistant City Attorney Kathryn Walker said.
Companies wanting to take advantage of the incentives would have to submit proposals, and each proposal would be evaluated on its individual merits, she said.
A performance agreement would be required, with specific performance goals outlined. Penalties would be written into the agreement if performance goals are not met.
Councilman Tom Kovach said the policy is “a step in the right direction. Up until this point, the city has not had any mechanism for making economic decisions. This is a way to get good information and make sound decisions.”
In the past, he said, “we've had somebody coming to town and telling us this is going to be great, and we didn't know. We just had to trust them.”