By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — An $11 million development including manufacturing and corporate business parks will put Norman on the map as an Economic Development District, according to a recent release by the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments.
The anticipated regional impact of jobs creation by the project resulted in a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Authority.
“We hope to break ground by March,” said Norman Economic Development Coalition Executive Director Don Wood, whose organization heads the collaborative effort.
Engineering plans for the University North Park projects were done by Tom McCaleb, P.E., and SMC Consulting Engineers, P.C.
The EDA uses investment funds for critical infrastructure for projects that have a significant impact on job creation. The federal agency keys in on regional job providers.
“Norman is the provider of jobs in this region,” Wood said. “We (the NEDC) provide a lot of jobs in the region, and that is part of the reason we got the grant. We have a track record of doing that.”
NEDC also owns the Norman Business Park, located four-and-a-half miles east of Interstate 35 on State Highway 9, and the adjacent 44-acre site in the former Saxon Business Park.
“Our project was identified as one that should be developed,” Wood said. “That made us eligible to apply for EDA grants.”
The entire project will encompass 60 acres owned by the NEDC, but the city of Norman will own the infrastructure built with the money from the EDA grant. Because of that, Norman was a co-applicant. The Norman City Council approved acceptance of the $2.5 million on Oct. 23.
The average wage for the University North Park project is expected to be in the $50,000 to $70,000 range.
The University North Park Advanced Manufacturing Center is a 30-acre business park with a target market including aerospace, medical devices and pharmaceutical manufacturing.
“We’re negotiating with a company right now that’s looking at doing something in that park,” Wood said.
The other half of the development will be the University North Park Corporate Centre, which will offer six pad sites, a large water feature, state-of-the-art telecommunications and airport access.
The NEDC projects high-wage jobs for college graduates in that portion of the park. The Corporate Centre will target technology companies as part of its audience.
“That’s our target for the office park,” Wood said. “The Advanced Manufacturing Center will be advanced jobs for manufacturing.”
Rock Creek road is the south boundary of the project, with the airport as the east boundary and 24th Avenue Northwest as west boundary.
“It will be just off I-35, so it’s easy access for people coming to the region to the jobs there,” Wood said. “It’s a great development area. It’s a great neighborhood for this to be in.”
Also in partnership with the NEDC and the city of Norman to develop this regional job center are the University of Oklahoma, Westheimer Airport, the Moore Norman Technology Center and the Sooner Centurions, a committee of the chamber of commerce. ACOG helped facilitate the application process.
The business parks will unfold over time as more tenants make it home.
“We’re in the bidding process and (are) trying to determine how much infrastructure we have to put in,” Wood said.
The NEDC will put in as much infrastructure as needed to get up and rolling, and more will be added as needed.
“We’re finishing up the loan to pay for the balance of the improvements,” he said. “We hope that this will be a great project for the community and generate a lot of good-paying jobs for our citizens.”
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