More manufacturing, more land needed for a stronger Normandy economy, experts say | News

The recipe for continued progress in growing Norman’s economy will mean maintaining strong retail momentum while strengthening the manufacturing industry, according to some of the city’s business, economic development and development experts. commercial real estate.

Lawrence McKinney, President and CEO of the Norman Economic Development Coalition, said that a healthy retail sector is part of and is a product of a strong economy. He said his goal is to create jobs in other sectors in Norman, such as manufacturing, which will create more local wealth and subsequently help strengthen retail.

However, the lack of space for new businesses and the incentives to attract them present challenges for Norman, McKinney said.

McKinney said the main goal of the NEDC is to increase the median wage, subsequently creating a ripple effect in the local economy.

The median household wage in Norman is just over $ 58,000, according to census data.

“Retail is important to many small businesses, especially the small local businesses that we have, but the best way to help them is to attract better paying jobs here in primary industries,” he said. declared.

Strong commercial city

Sara Kaplan, retail marketing coordinator for the town of Norman, said the town is fortunate to have a mix of unique local stores and popular national retailers. She said having a balance between these two elements makes for a strong retail area.

Norman is home to a wide variety of established retail areas, and looking around, it’s no surprise that retail is the primary sales tax factor for the local economy. The city has seen a retail sales tax increase over the past decade, from $ 40 million to $ 51 million in 2021, according to budget reports from Norman’s finance department.

However, there have been ups and downs with the number of filers in the retail category over the past decade. The most recent drop in 2020, from 1,234 reporters in 2019 to 1,177, was likely due to the effects of COVID-19.

In fiscal 2021, Norman saw an increase of 45 filers, which is a national trend of recovery in the industry.

For the first time in five years, store openings will outnumber closures, according to a study by Coresight Research. As of December 17, Coresight had 5,083 store openings and 5,079 closings, the least in five years.

2020 was a year of record closings, but Kaplan said many of those closures were struggling retailers before the pandemic.

“Those who survived came out stronger, and some [now have] less competition, ”Kaplan said.

The returns in 2021 show consumers are feeling comfortable enough to spend their money after a weaker 2020, Kaplan said.

She said the forecast looked significantly more optimistic than at this time last year despite continuing supply chain problems.

Kaplan expects new concepts to show interest in the Normandy market over the next few years, as the city’s trend of population growth leads to increased consumerism. In the past 10 years alone, Norman’s population has grown by about 14,000 to 124,880, according to census data.

Space for business

While Norman business and development experts remain optimistic about the city’s growth, the question of where to expand could present some challenges.

Brad Worster, a commercial real estate broker in Norman for 25 years, said businesses often look for communities that offer incentives like free land, waived permit fees or fast-track zoning when deciding where to locate.

He said a potential option the city could take to open up land for business attraction is to take an area of ​​land near the railroad and Franklin Road and zone it as I-1 Light Industrial in instead of leaving it as A-2 Rural Agriculture.

“It wouldn’t cost the city anything, but it would allow these areas to be more easily sold to industrial manufacturers,” Worster said.

The rezoning process can take five to six months without public resistance, but can go on for years if neighbors object, and each month costs around $ 10,000 in legal and professional fees, a growing gamble for the potential buyer. without guarantee of passage, Worster mentioned.

It also makes sense logistically to have industrial zoning next to a railroad track, Worster added.

Obtaining land is indirectly linked to five initiatives that McKinney is currently focusing on to develop the local economy: job retention, entrepreneurial space and incubator, attraction and retention of talent, weather and radar, and business attraction.

McKinney said retaining young professionals after graduating from the University of Oklahoma and bringing businesses to Norman are both paramount. He mentioned that a proposed organic incubator at University North Park could help achieve this goal.

“Our nomination was one of 60 nominations for the next step in the selection process,” McKinney said. “In March, that will be cut in half to 30, and if we do end up being approved, it will go by IMMY.”

25 years ago, McKinney said the NEDC started with 116 acres to house businesses at Norman Business Park. In 2022, they have fallen to 18 acres.

“We’re running out of properties, but we’ve created over 1,000 jobs there,” McKinney said.

At University North Park, they only have 15 acres left. With 33 total acres remaining and a limited availability of developable land, commercial industrial sites are much more difficult to attract, McKinney said.

Prioritize incentives

Over the past 30 years, Worster has seen companies prioritize incentives because they know their jobs will bring more wealth to the region.

“Their employees spend their income on grocery shopping, eating out, buying homes, and filling those homes with new furniture and new televisions,” Worster said. “This influx of people and spending from higher paying skilled jobs increases the need for more retailers and restaurants, recirculating taxpayer money.”

Worster said this allows the city to provide more amenities, which in turn attracts employers.

McKinney said he has had discussions with several companies that were not bringing in the salaries that justify the offer of incentives. But he also said the city is not facilitating negotiations either.

He said the incentives can do a good deal, but they will never do a bad deal.

But Norman has few existing incentives, he said.

“[We have them] if you are in a TIF district, or if you are in an opportunity zone or a corporate zone, but regarding my going to the city of Norman or the county of Cleveland and that I say, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get this company to come here,’ they don’t have anything on paper, ‘he said.

Last week, NEDC announced that Aerospace and Marine International, a commercial vessel meteorological service and offshore meteorological and oceanographic services, was moving its headquarters from San Jose, Calif., To Norman.

McKinney said Norman’s choice of the company over Colorado Springs was “a huge victory” that will help build momentum over the next five to ten years.


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