NORMAN — Businessman Mike Fowler promised to lead Norman forward during his inaugural speech as the incoming Norman Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors chairman this year.
Months before that declaration, however, Fowler and a group of Norman business leaders and stakeholders began engaging in a series of conversations about a quality-of-life initiative that would enhance the amenities already available in the city.
Bankers, lawyers, council members, youth sports association representatives and educators are among those who have been involved in the conversation as a plan has slowly taken shape. Their mantra could be paraphrased as “We can’t depend on the university for everything.”
While no one, least of all Norman’s civic and elected leaders, would deny the huge impact the University of Oklahoma has in drawing people and jobs to Norman, they say the time has come for the city to step up with a plan that will serve a broad range of residents and their needs.
Fowler is quick to disclaim credit for the Norman Forward plan, but the CEO of Fowler Auto Group has been rumored to be a driving force behind the grassroots movement over the last several months.
Fowler’s father, Bill, founded the family business in 1973. The family has been heavily involved in community affairs over the decades, including third-generation Jonathan Fowler, vice president of operations.
Jonathan is well known for his community involvement and support of the arts. That type of generational family involvement is not unique to Norman’s enduring business community, and the voice of those civic leaders could produce powerful momentum for a major quality of life proposal.
The devil’s in the details: While Norman Forward publicly launched this week, taking its website live and sending out mass emails, no plans for the quality-of-life initiative have been finalized. On the contrary, the real conversation is just beginning.