The Norman Transcript

May 3, 2013

Education top economic draw for Norman

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Education, including Norman’s public schools, is a top wealth creator in Cleveland County, according to a state economic expert who spoke Thursday at the Norman Economic Development Coalition’s annual Economic Summit.

City leaders gathered at Embassy Suites Norman to network, hear updates from community leaders, and learn about Oklahoma’s Economic Systems. Additionally, this year featured remarks by Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby.

Deidre Myers, Deputy Director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Policy, Oklahoma Department of Commerce, spoke on Oklahoma Ecosystems: Accelerating State and Regional Economic Growth. Analysis by Myers’ team identified four ecosystems operating in Cleveland County — Education, Energy, Professional and Scientific Services, and Information and Financial Services.

“What are our assets?” Myers said.

Myers said it is important to play your strengths in economic competition as well as an athletic one. While diversity can be valuable, that diversity should not come at the expense of a state, region, county or city’s greatest assets. We are competing in a global market and must find our niche, she said.

“We need to think in terms of regional economics,” Myers said, and regions don’t always follow geographical boundaries. Norman’s medical services draw from south of Cleveland County while university research and development draw from the Oklahoma City metro. Wealth is created beyond the county line.

It’s not always necessary to bring new companies to the state to grow and prosper, said Myers, as data indicates “90 percent of jobs created come from companies that already have an Oklahoma footprint.”

Those companies do business here and then locate here, are already here and expand or grow internally through entrepreneurship.

“That really directs us in terms of state policy and serving customers,” Myers said.

In some cases multi-county regions might share a “labor shed,” she said.

Norman is ahead of the state curve for an educated work force and support services.

“Norman has a very particular ecosystem,” Myers said.

One thing that makes Norman and Cleveland County economically fit is education. With the University of Oklahoma located in Norman, that conclusion seems to be a no-brainer, but the educational component of wealth creation in Norman goes beyond the university and professional schools like the Moore-Norman Technology Center, important as those assets are. The education ecosystem in Norman includes research and development — also university connected — but it also includes Norman’s elementary and secondary schools.

“Norman has some of the best schools in the entire state,” Myers said. People who work in Oklahoma City, for example, live in Norman because of the schools.

The other ecosystems in Norman are overlap that education core. The energy ecosystem in Cleveland County includes extraction, machinery and equipment manufacturing, and oil and gas support activities.

The professional and scientific services ecosystem here includes engineering, medical and legal services. The informational and financial services ecosystem includes financial services, accounting services and computer system design. Information and financial services are projected to grow.

Myers said if Cleveland County can take research and development and scientific capability and transfer that to applicable business, it creates wealth.

Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby echoed the message that Norman is on the right economic track.

“We see the growth, and we see all the opportunities you have right here,” Anoatubby said.

The Chickasaw Nation Industries is located on the outskirts of Norman and is a holding company for more than a dozen companies with a broad range of services.

“We’re very diverse,” Anoatubby said. “We strive to keep this sense of diversity in our economic policies. Riverwind is not all there is to the Chickasaw Nation.”