A quiet fifth-grader summed up the state of the city — and Mayor Mick Cornett's message in Wednesday's State of the City address — in a few short paragraphs.
Malaya McMillin, who attends Highland Park Elementary School, won a neighborhood essay contest with her take on “Why I Love My Neighborhood.”
Malaya wrote that she loved piles of leaves to jump in each fall, neighbors who wave and say hi, neat yards with big trees and flower beds, and having her grandmas living nearby.
“When you break down the reasons that she loves her neighborhood, it comes down to family, schools and trees,” Cornett said. “It's not all that complicated.”
Cornett introduced Malaya and her parents to the luncheon crowd of 1,600 at the Cox Convention Center, then said: “You are building an incredible place to live. And the best is yet to come.”
Wednesday's address was the 15th State of the City, hosted by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.
Cornett used his 37-minute speech to summarize the Oklahoma City renaissance, beginning with the failed effort in the early 1990s to land a United Airlines maintenance facility.
The city was in sad shape after the oil bust and banking bust of the 1980s and desperate for investment that would bring jobs and a return to prosperity, he said.
But a United executive confided that the company couldn't imagine its employees living in the city.
Fast-forward to 2014, Cornett said, and Oklahoma City is known as a “brainy city,” noted for entrepreneurship, job creation, and attracting well-educated young professionals.
What Oklahoma City leaders learned in the 1990s, Cornett said, was that corporations were taking jobs to cities where people wanted to live.