Oklahoma City Council Considers Economic Impact in Piper Incentive Decision

By Brus, Brian | THE JOURNAL RECORD, July 24, 2007 | Go to article overview
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Oklahoma City Council Considers Economic Impact in Piper Incentive Decision


Brus, Brian, THE JOURNAL RECORD


When the Oklahoma City Council discussed potential incentives to land a Piper Aircraft manufacturing center last month, the package was kept under wraps to keep competing cities from gaining an upper hand.

One figure helps put the value of those incentives in perspective: $518 million. That's Piper's expected regional economic impact, officials said - officials in Florida, that is. It's difficult to find an estimate of Piper's effect in Oklahoma City.

Kristy Yager said the Piper incentive package was discussed in executive session during a normal City Council meeting, which protects specific details from being revealed. As for the figures that the mayor and council members may have used to weigh those incentives, she referred to the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. The chamber produces most of City Hall's economic impact figures, she said.

And chamber spokeswoman Cynthia Reid said the organization won't discuss the number of employees that might be moving with the plant.

So Oklahoma City residents won't be given any details of the deal until after it's hashed out by city leaders. "Since it's still a prospect, we are not really at a place where we have anything that's releasable," she said. "While we're working with them (Piper representatives), in terms of what they're looking at doing here, it's still private, confidential client information."

Impact figures are fairly easily calculated by economists all the time, said Robert C. Dauffenbach, director of the University of Oklahoma's Center for Economic and Management Research. The numbers reflect how much new money is feeding into the local economy, which in turn can be dispersed to some degree through the market via the purchase of goods and services and supporting other jobs. In the simplest equation, the most important variables needed are either a company's gross sales or employment.

Some of those figures are already known. Piper announced many months ago it is planning to build a manufacturing facility for its new, single-engine PiperJet aircraft and possibly relocate corporate headquarters from Vero Beach, Fla. The municipal government in Florida has revealed that the new plant itself is expected to employ about 1,500 people. The company currently employs about 1,000, and the average salary of a Piper employee is about $39,000. Economists there have calculated the plant is worth $518 million annually to their local economy.

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