The Norman Transcript


October 31, 2012

Economic development: Planned policy under scrutiny



Those tools — many in the form of incentives — are precisely what some critics fear. They point to deals gone wrong or blunders that other cities have made and express concern that those mistakes could happen in Norman.

But that’s what the Norman City Council intends to prevent.

Wood said any proposed project should be based on an economic impact analysis including jobs creation and what impact it will have on the community.

“Locating major companies is a very competitive business,” he said. “The state of Texas has a dedicated half-cent sales tax all for economic development and most of the cities have voted that in.”

Oklahoma municipalities are competing as well. Bartlesville, Oklahoma City, Ardmore and Ponca City, for example, all have dedicated revenue streams for economic development.

While Norman is unique, it must compete with other cities inside and outside of the state who are aggressively pursuing economic development and jobs creation proponents of the new Authority say.

“Norman has higher costs than other cities,” Wood said. “Real estate is expensive and development costs in Norman are generally higher. We have impact fees that other people don’t have.”

The limited availability of potential sites in Norman creates land higher costs, he said.

The proposed economic policy is still in the early stages, said Norman city attorney Jeff Harley Bryant.

“We met in August and September and reviewed the tools we have in effect,” Bryant said. “Then in September and October, we talked about what other cities are doing.”

But Bryant said examples of what other cities are doing may not always be relevant.

“What they’re doing in other states may not work here,” he said. “Kansas has the ability to waive property taxes.”

In Oklahoma, most property tax goes to the schools and the county, so Norman wouldn’t have much of a property tax to waive, though in cases like the University North Park TIF, the taxing entities did agree to a partial ad valorem tax deferral with the monies used to develop infrastructure to support the development.

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