The Norman Transcript

April 6, 2014

Regional partnerships build prosperity

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Job creators shop for sites, regional marketing professionals told Norman’s Economic Development Advisory Board on Thursday. That makes selling the central Oklahoma region with its diversity of site options and amenities a business savvy way to promote Norman.

Advisory board members were briefed by the Greater Oklahoma City Partnership, the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments and the Norman Economic Development Coalition on how those city partnerships work to create opportunities in Norman.

“What we want to be is a supermarket with lots of aisles,“ said Kurt Foreman, executive vice president, economic development with the Greater OKC Chamber. “A regional effort makes sense so a customer won’t miss an opportunity.”

Several communities and entities are part of that regional effort, he said. Norman is a member of the Greater OKC Partnership through the NEDC. Cleveland County pays the membership dues and municipalities throughout the county benefit.

“We do recruitment of new companies,” Foreman said. “We do marketing and placement of stories to spread the word and tell the story of a region.”

The Greater OKC Partnership provides a number of opportunities and resources.

“We focus on those things that help everyone,” Foreman said. “We’ve gone in and helped communities with capacity building.”

Right now, the partnership is working in Piedmont to leverage existing resources, an effort that involves assistance with strategic planning. The group has also worked with Noble.

In Norman, the university and weather center are good assets when recruiting business to Norman.

“The trend for economic development for the last 10 years has been regional,” said NEDC Executive Director Don Wood. “Twenty years ago, you wanted to decouple from Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City was not the garden spot it is today. If I’m selling Norman, I’m a fool not to be selling Oklahoma City at the same time.”

Wood said that the Thunder and Bricktown are draws for selling Norman because of their proximity.

“Oklahoma really suffers from tornado image, “ Wood said, and is seen as a “flyover state.”

“We have a challenge getting past that perception,” he said.

Foreman agreed and said bringing prospects to the Sooner state is the cure.

“Once we get them here, they love it,” Foreman said.

The Greater OKC Partnership is an open forum for economic development groups but excludes retail recruitment efforts because of the strong local competition for sales tax.

Membership fees are based on a per capita model.

“We match almost dollar for dollar what the partners put in,” Foreman said.

Cleveland and Canadian counties have formal agreements with the Partnership. The other groups all contribute as part of the Partnership without written agreements. Various entities cooperate to participate in a variety of communities.

“We don’t control land, we don’t control incentives,” Foreman said. “What kind of behaviors do you want to encourage? Do you want to encourage higher end development?”

Joy Hampton



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