For Oklahoma City to compete with similar cities like Austin,
Denver, Kansas City, Memphis and Nashville, the challenges lie ahead
in good planning and economic development to join the "big leagues"
in the 21st century. John Dugan, the city's new planning director,
is meeting such challenges.
To be competitive, Dugan said Oklahoma City needs good tax
"We don't have any good tax incentives," he said. "We don't have
development incentives; building incentives."
Dugan, an Oklahoma City native, explained that planning
departments in places like St. Louis, Kansas City and Denver have
numerous brochures about how to obtain money from those cities, or
receive money back from them. All the developers and investors need
is a plan.
"It's all there and they can cut their prices by 50 percent," he
Oklahoma City is growing about one-fourth the rate of other
cities, which have good incentives.
"They have good incentives, they've got a quality of life,
they've got an environment conducive to people wanting to create
wealth by investing from outside. We need to be competitive."
To stimulate the competition, Oklahoma City must increase the
quality of life of the built-in environment, "what we see built
around us," he said. Many people and organizations invest in a city
based on the city's appearances.
"How they interact, how the streets work, how it looks, how easy
it is to get around, shopping areas, neighborhoods, business areas,"
Dugan said. "We're competing with all those communities, so the real
challenge here is to bring up our level of competition. That means
we've got to be real concerned, and the council in particular, in
what the streets look like and the signs, how much landscaping we
have on commercial properties.
"Some people may think that's just a frill, but it isn't. It's
what's expected from other places we're competing with for jobs for
our future and that's really an important component. So we have to
look a lot, and our new plan talks a lot, about how to enhance the
appearance of the city."
Among the inducements Oklahoma City could use is creative use of
its taxing laws -- tax abatements, tax refunds, special taxing
districts, sliding scales for taxes for properties, and sales tax.
"Tax increment financing is part of the debate just approved, at
least in concept," Dugan said. "I think that's really good. Kansas
City, Missouri has over 45 tax increment districts in effect right
now. They don't build anything without it.
"Using the tax laws is really important. Using the zoning laws to
give developers, for instance, density bonuses if they put in a
public park or amenities or if they want to build higher than
otherwise. You get more values out of a piece of property if you can
increase the intensity of development in exchange for public
amenities like plazas, colonnades and different types of
architectural features. There's a whole program of things like that
that could be done."
A partnership between the private and public sector is vital in
building the future of a city, Dugan said, to create wealth and
enhance the quality of life of the community's people.
"When you knock head-to-head on every issue, you train to work
with the neighborhoods so that the neighborhoods understand when the
developer comes in and wants to do something nearby, there's not
such huge battles all the time, so they can understand and
negotiate," Dugan explained.
The most successful communities negotiate, collaborate and work
"If you don't have an environment that's conducive to that,
you've got to create one," he said. "So that the bottom line is
creating an environment for the future. People will want to come
here and really invest here and grow the wealth of the community,
and then everybody who is here already can participate in that."
Dugan said the plan has worked in Norfolk, Va. …