2010 Innovation South Awards

What to do with a Vacant GM Plant?

Published: Friday, February 26, 2010 7:00 am

Southern Business & Development

SB&D's Innovation South Awards recognize what we believe are the most innovative programs, initiatives and projects in economic development in the South the previous calendar year. The Innovation Awards honor outstanding achievements by economic development agencies, utilities, public/private partnerships and government initiatives that truly embrace innovation in a way to further job generation and capital investment in the American South. Here are our winners for the 2009 calendar year.

In 2006, General Motors closed its 3.8 million-square-foot Oklahoma City assembly plant leaving local and state officials wondering what to do with the monster facility that sits on 430 acres. But they didn't wonder for long.

Through the leadership of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, the city, county and state rallied to purchase the plant and repurpose it to support the community's thriving aerospace industry, or more specifically for use by the Tinker Air Force Base. Tinker is the Air Force's largest base due to its emphasis on maintenance, repair and overhaul of military aircraft and engines. The base employs 26,000 workers.

Now called the Tinker Aerospace Complex, the former GM plant could end up housing thousands of new workers. Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said, "The officials at Tinker are enthused, the Pentagon is impressed and it helps solidify our relationship with the most important economic driver we have."

Shortly after GM's announcement to close the plant, Oklahoma City voters approved a $55 million bond issue to buy the property and lease it back to the Air Force for $1 a year in exchange for retrofitting the plant and using it to replace aging maintenance buildings at Tinker.

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