Public investment leads to shining examples of private development
By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
Sometimes government gets it right.
The creation of “place” to fuel economic development and redevelopment by Oklahoma City and Tulsa are both examples of strategic investment by local governments that are creating substantial ongoing economic benefit to each community.
Despite these shining examples in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, the clear economic benefits to the state of OCAST’s innovation model, and the great successes of the Oklahoma Department of Commerce in recruiting new jobs to Oklahoma from companies such as Boeing and GE, some Oklahomans are questioning the role of government in economic development and job creation.
History is proof that the public sector does have an important role to play — especially when it comes to building an innovation economy based on nontraditional industries.
Consider the MAPS 1, 2, 3 (Metropolitan Area Projects) in Oklahoma City and Vision 2025 in Tulsa. Each program is based on a voter-approved sales tax that funded public facility enhancements, generated hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment, and revitalized the inner core of Oklahoma’s two largest cities.
Oklahoma City’s investment led to the conversion of Bricktown into a premier entertainment district and a transformation that changed downtown from a place where commuters couldn’t wait to get away from after work to a place where a whole new generation chooses to live, work, and play. MAPS also led to Oklahoma City landing the Thunder which created a whole new “coolness” about Oklahoma, in general, and Oklahoma City, in particular.
In both communities, government investment leveraged hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment aided, in part, by tax credits such as the state historic building redevelopment tax credit. Without the strategic investment by government and a supporting tax credit infrastructure that encouraged targeted private investment, the economic prospects and physical face of both Tulsa and Oklahoma City would be very different than the great “places” we enjoy today.
Bruce Katz and Julie Wagner in their commentary “The Rise of Innovation Districts” published in the Nov. 12, 2014, issue of Harvard Business Review, note that the geography of innovation is shifting globally into the urban centers of cities. That’s what place-based economic development is all about — government and the private sector coming together and committing to using the Power of Place to create a dynamic economic core where people can come together to work, play and live.
Tulsa and Oklahoma City are being revitalized today not because of a cut in state income tax rates or increased spending on education, health care, public safety or roads and bridges. Instead, the revitalization sprang out of state and local government’s commitment to their mission of economic development and job creation through partnerships and collaboration with the private sector.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.
DID You Know?
Oklahoma City made the Forbes Top 10 list of cities that are the fastest gainers from domestic immigration. Per Forbes, people move to places with greater economic opportunity and a reasonable cost of living.