The Edmond Sun

September 20, 2013

Economist: Communities must be proactive for better futures

James Coburn
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Preserving cultural and educational development will be key for Edmond and communities along Interstate 35 to secure their upward trend in economic development that is evident from San Antonio, extending north through Oklahoma City to Kansas City, said Russell Evans, executive director of the Steven C. Agee Economic Research and Policy Institute.

“It’s going to hinge around the labor supply having the appropriate skill set to thrive in an innovative economy,” said Evans, assistant professor of economics at Meinders School of Business, Oklahoma City University.

Edmond is part of a megalopolis, a term used by economists when referring to leading economic regions in the U.S. The I-35 megalopolis is a leader in economic growth, Evans said this week at the Edmond Economic Development Authority’s 4o’clock 4cast.

“It’s true for Edmond as it is for Oklahoma City or Oklahoma as a whole, is identifying some core areas to develop around,” Evans said. “So the longevity of the energy industry, I still think is important to develop around.”

Councilman Nick Massey had asked Evans what could go wrong to derail economic development. What could go wrong is if a large oil and gas company would relocate away from the region, Evans said.

For Edmond, Evans said the community must continue being proactive and encouraged to build a core of economic activity that spurs further growth. The City of Moore has made it clear for several years that they do not want to be the hub of economic activity, he continued.

“They want houses. They want retail. At times, there’s almost an animosity between Moore and Oklahoma City,” Evans said of Oklahoma City supplying the jobs for a bedroom community spending its retail dollars in Moore.

The question for Tulsa is whether it can tie in to the Oklahoma City metroplex economic corridor and reach north to Wichita, Evans said.

“It’s not clear to me yet if Tulsa will carve out a niche in this I-35 corridor,” Evans said.

The areas that actively promote their own economic identity will be the winners economically, Evans said. If Oklahoma City continues 6 percent growth rates year after year, Edmond will compete with other areas of the metroplex.

Evans drives down I-35 passing smaller towns, wondering what they will be like in 20 or five years. Will economic geography force more economic activity near the I-35 corridor? he asked. Or, will there be winners and losers in these rural areas that are culturally rich communities?

“Economic development is going to be centered around what is culturally rich. Economic development is going to invite creative expression,” Evans said.

Top MBA programs, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are incorporating improvisational comedy into their business programs, Evans said. Creative expression is closely linked to entrepreneurial expression, he said.

“When we get smart people, innovative people in a room, and when you get them making music together or doing improvisational comedy, being creative together,” Evans said. “Then you get the spontaneous entrepreneurial activity that is so important for organic economic development.”

Edmond has been investing in public/private projects during the past few years, said Janet Yowell, EEDA executive director. Among these projects will be new Public Safety Center in downtown Edmond, the Edmond Recreation and Aquatic Center and the hotel and conference center being built on the northwest corner of Covell and I-35, she said.

“I think that investment in ourselves … helps to place us in a good position,” Yowell said for the city’s future.



TO LEARN MORE about the Steven C. Agee Economic Research and Policy Institute, go to http://tinyurl.com/m52yo4u.