The Norman Transcript

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October 31, 2012

Economic development: Planned policy under scrutiny

NORMAN — Controversy continues to swirl around Norman’s attempts to develop a municipal economic development policy.

This spring, city leaders formed the Norman Economic Development Authority, a trust with bonding capacity. The members of city council will serve as trustees to ensure the board is answerable to the public.

Coming soon will be appointments to an Economic Development Advisory Board to be comprised of people with expertise in economics, banking, development, real estate, business and other relevant areas. That advisory board will not have decision-making power, but will be comprised of professionals who can vet a project and make recommendations to the Authority.

Also under review and creation is an economic development policy for the city, along with possible incentives and eligibility criteria to guide the decision-making process.

“Incentives should be used to level the playing field to take away a disadvantage you might have because your costs are higher whether that be transportation costs, land costs or whatever, versus a competing site,” said Norman Economic Development Coalition Executive Director Don Wood. “Incentives need to always be performance based and have clawbacks if they get them ahead of performance. It’s always better to be performance based, but there are times you may want to give incentives ahead of time, and you need to have clawbacks.”

The Norman Economic Development Coalition was formed in 1996. It is a combined effort of the University of Oklahoma, the city of Norman, Moore Norman Technology Center, and the Sooner Centurions, a committee of the Norman Chamber of Commerce.

Critics of the formation of the new trust authority pointed to the Coalition’s efforts in economic development as proof that Norman did not need an additional entity to promote the city as a site for future employers.

But Wood has been an advocate, saying there is only so much the Coalition can do. In addition, the potential for bonding capacity added by the Authority creates a new toolbox of economic development tools.

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