Thanks in large part to the efforts of House Speaker T.W. Shannon, state government has finally compiled a comprehensive list of all property it owns, both buildings and land. This year Shannon, R-Lawton, successfully promoted legislation to sell unused property on that list.
The state owns far too many buildings that sit vacant, yet the sale of those properties is unlikely to generate significant sums of money. Take a vacant 6,500-square-foot building owned by the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority in Tulsa. The state tried to sell the building earlier this year but didn't get a bid. A second effort is underway. The minimum bid has been reduced by $66,000.
State government owns around 7,900 buildings and 1.2 million acres. Officials have identified 135 underused properties that could be sold, but are taking a gradual approach. They plan to sell only about six properties in the next nine months. As noted, buyers aren't exactly rushing to buy dilapidated structures. That doesn't mean this process is a waste of time.
The sale of any unused state property serves a public purpose. The goal isn't simply to generate revenue for state government, but to allow property to be put to productive use. A vacant building generates no economic activity. It only serves as an eyesore as it becomes more and more run down, which also harms the value of surrounding property.
If the state sells a building for a song, it will be worth it if the new owner repurposes the building for a new business or even bulldozes the structure to allow for other economic use. The new owner will pay property taxes as well.
No economic good comes from leaving buildings vacant and property unused. By moving these properties out of economic limbo, state officials are removing an impediment to economic development and job creation.