By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — The Norman City Council approved a contract that will bring the first tenant to the Advanced Marketing Center in the University North Park TIF district at its Tuesday night meeting. The vote passed in a 8 to 1 vote, with Council member Greg Jungman voting against.
“This has been a long road. We had a dream for what we wanted to happen at University North Park,” Norman Economic Development Director Don Wood said Tuesday night as he spoke before the Norman City Council.
The TIF includes money budgeted to build the corporate Center and the Advanced Manufacturing Center. The NEDC is using a $2.5 million grant from the Economic Development Authority to assist with the cost of 60 acres the NEDC bought from the UNP developer. Now, the NEDC is proceeding with its portion of the infrastructure.
“We’re going to be putting in all of the roads, we’re putting in water and sewer, we’re going to be turnkey ready to go,” Wood said.
The first tenant proposed for the Advanced Manufacturing Center is Immuno Mycologics Inc., or IMMY.
Wood said the NEDC used two models to analyze the potential economic impact of development in this area.
“This is a great company,” Wood said. “It basically started in a barn out by Washington (Okla.).”
Founded in 1979 by Stan Bauman, IMMY developed, manufactured and marketed immunodiffusion, complement fixation and latex agglutination tests for diseases too small to catch the eye of large companies. Bauman’s sons bought the company in 2002 and developed the product line further.
Their success spurred growth, and IMMY moved to the Norman Business Park in 2007. Now, they’ve outgrown that facility and need to expand. The lot in the Advanced Marketing Center is an opportunity to keep the company in Norman.
IMMY creates tests for rare and neglected diseases that large companies overlook.
“It’s an amazing thing that a little company in Norman, Okla., is saving 100,000 lives a year,” Wood said.
He said IMMY has looked as far north as the Health Sciences Center.
“They’ve looked at locations in Moore,” Wood said.
He said Norman is fortunate to have the opportunity to keep IMMY.
“We wanted to be able to kick-start our project,” Wood said, “and we want to be able to help a local company.”
Treating a valued, growing, existing company with high-end jobs more than $50,000 a year are exactly the type of company the NEDC wants to keep in the community, Wood said.
Assistant City Attorney Kathryn Walker reported on the requirements for incentives under the TIF agreement. The incentive IMMY will receive a discount on the lot it is purchasing.
The price of the lot is $1.9 million, but the NEDC will give IMMY a discount on the purchase of $770,000, resulting in a purchase price of $1.15 million. IMMY will create at least 50 jobs.
The TIF project plan set aside $8.25 million for economic development — none of the money would come out of the city’s general fund. The Economic Development policy established by the city recently identifies desirable qualities that IMMY fits, Walker said.
Walker further said the discounted purchase price was key to keeping IMMY in Norman.
The Norman Tax Increment Finance Authority will reimburse the NEDC if jobs are created. The company must stay in Norman for at least 10 years and can’t sell the property for speculation.
The TIF provides the funds to pay back the NEDC.
“The money that the company is paying for taxes is actually funding the incentive,” Wood said.
Council member Greg Jungman, who has consistently supported a no-growth or slow-growth stance, questioned Wood strongly over the economic impact models and whether the city is taking any risk. Wood said any risk is on the point of the NEDC.
When asked about the profit the NEDC made on the property it sold to IMMY in the Norman Business Park, Wood said that wasn’t the point of the park.
“We’re not in the profit business,” Wood said. “We’re in the job business.”
Support from the city council was strong. Council member said IMMY has qualities Norman wants.
“I’m very happy to support these types of jobs,” Council member Robert Castleberry said.
His view was echoed by the majority of the council members.
“I whole-heartedly support this project,” Council member Jim Griffith said. He commended the company for the work it does and the lives it saves.
Council member Greg Heiple said IMMY is a family company and epitomizes Norman values.
Griffith said treating a home-grown company well is key to attracting quality companies in the future.
“This is a very, very good decision,” Griffith said.
Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said IMMY is making a business decision and the incentive is part of what it takes to keep the company here.
She said the industrial park was not set up to remain vacant.
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