BOSTON — The success of the Oklahoma City Thunder has washed over the annual BIO International Convention here this week in a big way.
In elevators, on buses and especially at the OKBio exhibition booth on the floor of the Boston Convention Center, strangers have walked up to members of the Oklahoma delegation to tell them they are cheering for the Thunder in the finals.
But it goes deeper than that, said Sheri Stickley, president of the Oklahoma Bioscience Association. Call it a substantial ROI — return on investment — on what the team is bringing to Oklahoma, she said.
“I would say a third of the conversations here at the show are people coming up to us saying, ‘Go Thunder,” Stickley said. “It's getting us recognition, it's getting us traffic; I think it's getting us acceptance, it's getting us interest and allowing us to open the door and talk about our bioscience success story.”
As if to prove Stickley's point, a pair of visitors from different states — California and Massachusetts — walked up to the life-size cutout of Kevin Durant that adorns one end of the Oklahoma space a few minutes later and volunteered that they were both Thunder fans.
Then they posed for photos with KD.
Dan Luton, director of programs for the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology, is among the Oklahomans at BIO who has witnessed the Thunder effect on visitors. And it's not just among random encounters on the exhibition floor, but conversations about doing business with or even relocating to Oklahoma, he said.
“It's stimulated at least a half dozen conversations with me about possibly relocating to Oklahoma, which these companies would not usually do that,” Luton said.
For example, Oklahoma is on the short list of relocation sites being considered by a New Zealand company, he said.
“They heard about Oklahoma through the Thunder coverage, which I guess is now worldwide, and added Oklahoma to their list,” Luton said.
The Thunder have provided the perfect conversation “ice breaker,” said Richard Clements, an economic development officer with OG&E Electric Services.
“People feel comfortable talking about that before they start talking business,” Clements said.
A few moments later, a man who said he was from Boston walked up to the booth and the first words he spoke to the OKBio contingent were “Go Thunder.”
Then the conversation really started.