- Amanda Mountain of Rocky Mountain Public Broadcasting Service is one of about 50 local community and business leaders on the Oklahoma City trip.
What does Oklahoma City know that Colorado Springs doesn’t? Fifty local business and civic leaders are in Oklahoma City this week, not to watch the Thunder compete in the National Basketball Association playoffs, but to learn the flourishing city’s secrets.
The goal of the scouting mission: Find out what led to Oklahoma City’s economic renaissance and how Colorado Springs can follow suit.
“This city is known for innovative ideas, and there are some great things happening,” said City Councilwoman Jan Martin, who is on the trip, which concludes Friday.
On the trip are representatives from top businesses and organizations, including El Paso County, the city of Colorado Springs, the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp., the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, the Colorado Springs Philharmonic and others.
The population of Oklahoma City is 579,999, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, slightly larger than Colorado Springs’ 416,427 residents.
Participants are learning about Oklahoma City’s developments in the arts, government, sports and the environment, said El Paso County spokesman Dave Rose. Each organization is paying its way, he said.
The site of the 1995 bombing of a federal building, Oklahoma City has since resurrected a moribund downtown with renovations and additions that include a baseball park and library, improved its public education system and added 72,000 jobs between 2004 and 2009, according to the city’s website. During the recession, Oklahoma City consistently had the lowest unemployment rate in the nation.
This is the third annual “Regional Leaders Trip” to study cities that are nationally recognized as doing things right. Local officials visited Charlotte, N.C. and Austin, Texas, on previous trips.
Rose said participants on last year’s trip were impressed by how Charlotte and Mecklenburg County work together to enhance public services and save money.
As a result, El Paso County and the city of Colorado Springs improved joint contracting to get lower prices on fuel through volume purchasing, he said.
Also, last month, El Paso County commissioners renewed a push to collaborate with the city of Colorado Springs. On the table is at least one idea gleaned from Charlotte: a centralized customer service call center to respond to transportation issues.
Oklahoma City’s downtown development details
Late 1980s: Companies began abandoning downtown following a major economic downturn
December 1993: Voters passed a 1 percent sales tax increase to fund a $254 million downtown revitalization project including a new baseball park, a new sports arena, convention center expansion, a new library, a downtown canal and river construction, renovations to the State Fair Park, civic center upgrades and a transit system
1998: What is now the AT&T Bricktown Ballpark opened; voters approved a six-month extension of the sales tax
December 1998: Voters approved a six-month extension of the sales tax
1999: Trolley system opened
2001: Extensive renovations completed at the Civic Center Music Hall; voters pass a sales tax and bond issue to fund public school construction projects
2002: The Ford Center, a concert venue that in 2005 hosted the NBA’s Hornets franchise following Hurricane Katrina and now is home to the Oklahoma City Thunder, opened
2004: North Canadian River parks and waterway restoration completed
2009: Voters passed a $777 million tax-funded proposal to build a central park downtown, a new convention center, a commuter rail system and other economic development projects
Source: The Oklahoman