Letter to the Editor: Council should invest in Norman’s future

University North Park entertainment district rendering

Angela Barbour | Norman Chamber of Commerce

I strongly feel that investing in an entertainment district in Norman is in the City’s best interest, and I urge City Council to vote on the proposal at the June 26th meeting, before the new council members are installed. It is the CURRENT council which has been involved in the research and discussion on the proposal, and as such they are the most qualified to make the decision. It is very easy to slip into “analysis paralysis” mode, and I fear that as a City we are slipping dangerously close to that line. Numbers have been given, impacts have been projected; I feel it is time to take action.

While it is true that the kinds of businesses that will directly go into the district will not necessarily provide attractive, high-paying jobs, having the district will provide an attraction for those companies that WILL provide high-paying jobs.

By investing in our future we are showing potential companies that we believe in our City, our youth, and our future, and that we are a viable place for them to call home.

Companies do not want to locate where people don’t want to live, and currently there is little we offer as a City that cannot be found in Oklahoma City, and even Moore. Couple that with our higher cost of living, and it is no wonder 25-45 year-olds are leaving Norman in droves! Norman Forward was a step in the right direction, but I feel it is only the tip of the iceberg.

Taking this next step to improve our City will start a cycle of positive growth: increased quality of life (access to walkable, desirable locations like Campus Corner, downtown Norman, and the possible entertainment district) brings more quality jobs, and when you bring the two together you get more young professionals wanting to live in that area, which will bring more quality companies to Norman, and so on.

I will be honest in that I do not fully understand the concept of the TIF, however, I think it makes complete sense for the City of Norman to be financially invested in the entertainment district, and if implementing a TIF is the way to make that happen, then I am all for it. Whatever incentives we need to offer to bring this kind of positive growth to our City are warranted.

Look at the City of Moore; their economic incentives have certainly proven successful, and no one can argue against what the MAPS project has done for Oklahoma City. This is what we need to keep Norman relevant, and I, for one, like the idea of it not being paid for by an increased sales tax.

As the Immediate Past Chair of Norman NEXT I have seen firsthand through our membership turnover the impact of young professionals leaving Norman.

We lose members every month because they have taken a job and moved out of Norman, most often to Oklahoma City.

My husband’s company recently hired a twenty-something who had been living in Austin with his wife. Even though he was to be working in Norman, and had completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Oklahoma, the thought of living in Norman never crossed their minds, and they have since moved into a trendy apartment in Midtown.

As for his wife, she had been working for Google, and there was nothing in Norman that even came close to what she was looking for; she is now working in Oklahoma City.

It is my sincere hope that our Council makes the decision to invest in Norman’s future, thus bringing Norman back to the elite place to live, work, and play in Oklahoma.

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