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Norman’s Economic Plan: Giveaway for Businesses, or Step in the Right Direction?

Filed by KOSU News in State Impact.
April 26, 2013

Pro-Zak / Flickr

The Norman City Council on Tuesday approved a new economic incentive plan meant to attract businesses and jobs in an 8-1 vote.

It creates a seven member volunteer board that will make recommendations to the city’s economic development trust authority.

The authority can then offer “something as simple as streamlining the permit process all the way to helping businesses attain favorable loan structuring,” Assistant City Attorney Kathryn Walker told The Oklahoman’s Jane Glenn Cannon:

Companies wanting to take advantage of the incentives would have to submit proposals, and each proposal would be evaluated on its individual merits, she said.

A performance agreement would be required, with specific performance goals outlined. Penalties would be written into the agreement if performance goals are not met.

Councilman Chad Williams told the paper the vote sends a signal that Norman is ready to compete, and sees great potential for new jobs and a larger tax base. Councilman Tom Kovach calls it a “step in the right direction:”

Up until this point, the city has not had any mechanism for making economic decisions. This is a way to get good information and make sound decisions.”

In the past, he said, “we’ve had somebody coming to town and telling us this is going to be great, and we didn’t know. We just had to trust them.”

But despite the 8-1 vote, the plan has its detractors, including Councilman Greg Jungman, who voted ‘no.’

“We are literally hanging out a welcome sign for firms to come to our community and say, ‘Well, you’re going to have to write me a check or you’re going to have to give me a break on my taxes or you’re going to have to give me something,’” Jungman said.

Mayor Cindy Rosenthal doesn’t seem overly excited about the idea, telling the paper she doesn’t expect to see many businesses asking for incentives, and when they do, the requests “should be approached with a great deal of skepticism.”


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