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March 14, 2014

Norman’s education-centered economy key to growing economy, experts say

NORMAN — The education cluster in and around Norman is key to the city’s ability to attract quality jobs to the area, Oklahoma Secretary of Commerce Larry Parman said.

Parman and several other regional and local experts spoke on economic development Thursday during the 2014 Economic Development Summit at Embassy Suites in Norman.

The University of Oklahoma, Norman’s high-quality public schools and the proximity of area training and education centers such as Moore Norman Technology Center make the city a draw for economy builders who want an educated work force and high quality of life, Parman said.

Parman was the keynote speaker at the summit, which is an annual event hosted by the Norman Economic Development Coalition.

Other speakers included Stuart Graham, vice president of CB Richard Ellis. Graham spoke about trends in the retail market for the Oklahoma City metro area, which includes Norman.

Graham said with the University North Park Corporate Centre and Industrial Park coming online soon, businesses will be drawn to the area. Having building sites ready to go next to OU’s Max Westheimer Airport creates an easy choice for businesses looking for a new home.

“You’re going to start to have larger corporations like GE coming to Norman now that the product is available,” Graham said of the business park.

Both Graham and Parman said competition is steep for businesses that bring jobs to a location. That means there are some highly subsidized markets out there.

Parman said there are two essential theories in how to compete for businesses that are job creators.

One is to be a magnet. While high quality of life, an educated work force and low cost of living are desirable elements, policy creates a further draw.

Highly regulated states and cities with high taxes have to use the alternative: they buy businesses through the use of incentives.

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