Chamber to receive Tinker bond cash

Published: Thursday, August 20, 2009 7:00 am By: Bryan Dean

The Oklahoman

Oklahoma County commissioners voted Wednesday to help fund the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber's efforts to bring jobs to Tinker Air Force Base.

The county is giving the chamber $200,000, money left from a bond issue that helped purchase the old General Motors plant.

Chamber spokeswoman Cynthia Reid said the funds are used to work with base officials to determine what opportunities are available to bring private sector jobs to the base and to market those options to companies looking to expand.

Although base officials are willing to partner with private industry, it's up to local officials to aggressively pursue the jobs that can come with such partnerships.

"We're the only entity that is set up to make that happen," Reid said.

"Honestly, these are complicated opportunities. It's a very complicated system of what qualifies and what doesn't."

The county's decision came two days after a ribbon-cutting at the plant for the base's new repair and overhaul center. County voters approved a bond issue last year to purchase the plant, which was closed by GM in 2006.

At the ceremony Monday, officials announced 400 new jobs because of the facility.

About 800 people are expected to be working at the facility by the end of the year.

District 3 Commissioner Ray Vaughn said the ballot language allows the county to use leftover money for economic development, which is convenient given the decrease in revenue the county has seen as the recession has hit Oklahoma.

"Our general fund has been squeezed," Vaughn said. "In order for us to keep the economic development engine moving in the same direction that it was when we acquired the GM plant, this was an option that was available."

County officials sold $45 million of the $55 million in bonds approved to purchase the plant. The state kicked in $9 million, which means $10 million of the approved bonds won't go on county tax rolls.

County Treasurer Butch Freeman said the county has $487,000 left over from the $45 million in bonds that were sold.

That money is from expenses reimbursed by Tinker for after the sale, along with money the county has acquired from selling scrap steel that was pulled from the GM plant during its overhaul.

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