Oklahoma City Council Considering New TIF For "Innovation District"

Dec 9, 2016

Over the next week City Council members will consider adding a new tax increment finance, or TIF, district to Oklahoma City.

Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City president Cathy O’Connor says this new district probably wouldn’t happen were it not for two already-successful districts near the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences center. The first was created in 1993, and the second came about a decade ago, according to The Journal Record’s Ted Streuli.

“This new district will fill in the gaps in between those two districts. There will be a little bit of geographic shuffling over there. The new district and the new project area almost look like an umbrella that encompasses those two older TIFs,” Streuli said. “So the boundaries will expand for the project all the way west over to Broadway and east over to Kate Street to allow for future projects.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, O’Connor said the goal of the so-called “Innovation District” is to advance companies and promote entrepreneurship in Oklahoma City’s budding biotech sector.

“I want to make certain that we all understand that this is a very intentional economic development strategy that Oklahoma City’s really been a part of for over 20 years now,” O’Connor said.

The planned tax increment finance district, the 11th in Oklahoma City so far, will be formed by untapped portions of TIF Districts 1 and 7. Data source: City of Oklahoma City.
Credit Graphic by Bryan M. Richter / The Journal Record

The “Innovation District” plan has a few attributes that make it different than past TIFs, The Journal Record’s Brian Brus reports:

For example, most of the property developed primarily by public investment – to the tune of $1 billion – don’t pay property taxes, and there are virtually no project revenues other than the HCA hospital complex and payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTs.

The new TIF will be supported primarily by the development of the GE Global Research Center, she said, a private concern that does pay property taxes. Officials project about $52 million to be generated by GE alone over the next 25 years.

This particular TIF also has a new budgeting category for what O’Connor calls "advanced education," Streuli says.

“What that supports are partnerships between those science-related entities in the district, such as GE, and they're partnerships within individual schools or whole school districts that are trying to enhance their science technology, engineering, arts, and math programs,” Streuli said.

Oklahoma City’s Planning Commission met Thursday afternoon to discuss the ordinance, and it will be presented to the city council for a vote on December 20. Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid, who's normally very cautious when it comes to distributing public money, said during Tuesday’s meeting this could be a key to diversifying Oklahoma City’s economy.

“I don’t think the oil and gas industry will be robust in 10 years, and certainly not in 20 years. Biotech is not going anywhere," Shadid said. "It will only get more and more robust, and I think this is the smartest investment we can make is in biotech.”

Watch Tuesday's Oklahoma City Council Meeting. The "Innovation District" TIF Discussion Begins at 44:50

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