NORMAN — The Business and Community Affairs Committee explored economic development policies at its meeting Thursday.
Chair Linda Lockett, who represents Ward 7 on the Norman City Council, said she also wants the committee to create a definition of what constitutes economic development.
City staff attorney Kathryn Walker presented information on the policies and funding mechanisms of other communities similar to Norman, such as Denton, Texas, Columbia, Mo., and Lawrence, Kan.
The creation of a Norman Economic Development Authority was approved in May and a draft ordinance creating an advisory board was presented to the Business and Community Affairs Committee in July. Because it was decided that members of the city council would serve on the NEDA, the advisory board is a way to include local professionals with expertise in business and economic development in a consulting capacity to council members.
In August, the current tools available for economic development were discussed. In September, research into policies from other cities began. The evaluation of components for Norman’s policies and goals will continue through November, with a draft of policy statement expected in December.
Council member Tom Kovach expressed concern about incentivizing a business to bring jobs here and then, 10 years later, that company may leave.
Don Wood, Norman Economic Development Coalition executive director, said performance reviews and penalties would not extend beyond a decade, but that isn’t a problem.
“A company comes here to find the trained work force. They become embedded in the community,” Wood said.
But while it is useful to look at the types of incentives other towns in other states use, Wood was concerned that the tax incentives in other states may not apply here.
He pointed out that property taxes in Texas fund cities to a larger degree, while in Oklahoma, property taxes primarily affect schools.
“I would like to see as many tools in our toolbox as possible,” Council member Robert Castleberry said. “On a case-by-case basis, we can see how these tools fit.”
Council member Greg Jungman does not think Norman should incentivize coming to town but rather should focus on quality-of-life initiatives that will make businesses want to locate here.
Jungman said he does not want to take “tax dollars from families in our community” and gift that money to companies for providing below-average jobs. Jungman wants a high rate of wage as a minimum.
But others said Norman would be creating tax dollars and jobs that don’t currently exist, thus generating new income for residents.
Wood said some university graduates would like to stay in Norman if jobs were available.
At this time, the council still is creating policy. No projects have been proposed and no tax incentives have passed for any business.