O’Connor: OKC readies new site for growing industrial needs

Published: Thursday, November 5, 2020 By: Cathy O'Connor Source: The Journal Record

The Urban Land Institute recently published an economic forecast for 2021 and beyond. Its findings, with data trends over the past 10 years as well as the economic predictions, generally align with what we’ve seen and are experiencing in Oklahoma City. The economic forecast shared good news for industries hardest hit by COVID-19: retail, hospitality and tourism, predicted to rebound in 2021.

One of the strongest economic drivers over the past 10 years, nationally and in Oklahoma, is the industrial sector, which helped buoy the economy during 2020. Industrial rent has experienced a 7% growth rate year over year, as industrial sites are moving closer to population centers. This is true of Oklahoma City as well. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to identify large land sites over 100 acres in the metro with infrastructure capacity for the largest industrial businesses.

In Oklahoma City during 2019, about half of our 53 known industrial projects required facilities with 100,000 square feet or more on 50 acres or more of land, driven by growth in manufacturing, distribution, research and development, data centers and aerospace. Lack of sites means that new jobs, industry diversification and other economic benefits go to other cities. In the past five years, 23 industrial projects that Oklahoma City lost to another city cited the reason as lack of a building or site.

This is a problem we can solve. The Oklahoma Industries Authority is a public body corporate created for the purpose of developing and promoting trade, commerce, industry, and employment opportunities for the public good and promoting the general welfare of the state of Oklahoma. Our most recent land acquisition is a 577-acre site at I-240 and S. Eastern Avenue, a collaboration with the Commissioners of the Land Office. The site has many advantages, located immediately south of I-240 and just 1 mile from I-35, and its sheer size will attract industrial businesses looking for a very large site. An empty field now, it can be developed into any configuration of warehouse, loading docks, storage, office or lab space and parking. Its proximity to Tinker Air Force Base, only 4 miles away, would be attractive to aerospace, defense and engineering businesses.

The site is an example of how Oklahoma City identifies new opportunities to enhance and diversify our economy and support our existing business interests.

Cathy O’Connor is president of the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City.

Read the story on thejournalrecord.com.

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