Piedmont mayor among critics of lobbyist's contract

The mayor of Piedmont said Mike Fina only secured his lobbying contract with the city because he's a former mayor. Fina, chief of staff to former Lt. Gov. Jari Askins, said he's working to bring grant money into the town he's grown to love.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD zcampfield@opubco.com Modified: May 15, 2013 at 7:54 pm •  Published: May 16, 2013
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“We don't have anybody, including the chamber, that really goes out and looks for new business to come into Piedmont,” Woods said. “Mike Fina — we owe him a lot of thanks, but there's no kickback involved.”

Thomerson said she and other town residents are also concerned about Fina's relationship with Apex Wind Energy, which recently failed win over residents in its bid to extend a wind turbine project into Piedmont.

Fina said he contracts with Apex on strategy advice but that he does not provide any services in the town.

Despite its small size, Piedmont — just beyond Oklahoma City limits to the northwest — is experiencing a boom in new housing divisions.

But where construction and development is clear along the highways leading into town, local retail options are sparse. Aside from a grocery store, the barber shop and a few small restaurants, Piedmont remains centered around its school district.

According to census figures, its population increased 50 percent between 2000 and 2010 to almost 6,000 residents, but its city manager, Jim Crosby, said sales tax revenue has not grown comparatively.

According to records filed with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, Piedmont is the smallest Oklahoma city or town to contract with a registered lobbyist. Other Oklahoma cities that do so include Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Enid, Lawton and Miami.

But it is becoming common for growing towns like Piedmont to hire someone to help steer and manage the growth.

Robert Floyd, city manager for Blanchard — which saw its population nearly triple over the decade — said his city council recently approved a similar contract with Retail Attractions, an economic development consulting group based in Owasso.

Retail Attractions also represents Harrah and about two dozen other towns in Oklahoma and neighboring states, according to its chief executive officer, Rickey Hayes.

The $12,000 paid annually to Retail Attractions is worth every penny if it can turn residential growth into sales growth, Floyd said.

“My predecessor in 2012 did a retail analysis and it shows we're losing a lot of money to Norman, to Chickasha, to the tri-city area — even to Oklahoma City,” he said. “Even though we have the houses here and they're upper income houses, people are leaving to go shop someplace else.”

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