By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Norman is redefining itself as a more business friendly community.
The Norman City Council is currently finalizing details of an economic development policy to clearly establish Norman’s mission and goals for economic development within the city.
All city council members agree, any use of public money whether its in the form of a tax rebate or building roads, requires a business plan, eligibility criteria and clawbacks — a monetary payback agreement — to protect the public interest.
Exactly how that comes about remains a matter of debate, but a consensus agreement is coming closer. Once that consensus is reached, the policy will go before the city council for a formal vote to adopt it.
Council member Greg Jungman wants specific language about clawbacks outlined in the policy.
Others say policy is not the place to outline specific details and that project proposals will have to be dealt with on an individual basis.
When a project comes forward, the Norman Economic Advisory Board will vet the project and make recommendations. Then NEDA, the trust authority comprised of city council members who are elected by the public and accountable to the public, must again look at the project. Further, all projects will ultimately come before the city council in a public forum before the city signs off on any deals.
Criteria include quality jobs creation with a threshold at or above average county wages.
“I don’t want giving money up front to be our primary goal,” said Council member Linda Lockett.
Lockett chairs the Business and Community Affairs committee which is currently working on the development of the policy.
“Our goal is to use this set of tools,” Lockett said. “And many of them aren’t necessarily where you would require clawbacks.”
Lockett said locking down details too tightly now, would prevent anything from ever coming forward.
“One of the reasons we talked about doing this is to make Norman business friendly,” Lockett said. “We have to have faith in the people doing the recruiting and in the advisory committee. And council will have to approve it.”
Council member Tom Kovach said the city’s efforts toward economic development should serve small businesses as well has incentivizing big employers.
The primary point of contention remains how specific the policy needs to be, but council seems close to reaching a consensus.
“I want to get away from it being a priviledge to do business in Norman” Castleberry said. “I want it to be easier to do business in Norman.”
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