The Edmond Sun

June 8, 2012

OUR VIEW: It's time for I-35 to shine

The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Many across the nation have debated the merits of government action in the realm of economic development. They question whether government can have an appropriate role in aiding the development of commerce, and whether this creates a situation of a powerful entity choosing winners and losers.

Edmond’s city government has toed an extremely conservative line up to this point in how it has handled government incentives for economic development. For the first time, city leaders have ventured into true incentives territory by purchasing 7.13 acres of property on the northwest corner of Interstate 35 and Covell for $2.2 million out of the city’s Real Property Tax Fund.

The idea is that the private developers of an upscale Hilton Garden Inn Hotel and conference center will pay back the land purchase price in a 10-year period. The owners of a private 170,000-square-foot sports complex will have 15 years to purchase a separate piece of land back from the city.

While many questions remain about whether these projects plus the additional retail they will bring in to the area will truly be successful, this Editorial Board believes that city officials have to this point done an excellent job of providing due diligence to the project.

The steps taken by the City Council in May were more than five years in the making and have two separate studies behind them scrutinizing both the location and the return on investment for a conference center. It was exactly a year after John Weeman and Partners in Development brought forward their mast plan for the two corners at I-35 and Covell before the City Council agreed to support the venture.

In that time, the council and city staff have researched what we believe will be a shrewd investment. Right now, the property as it stands brings in a few thousand dollars per year in property taxes to support the school district. If the proposed retail project comes to fruition, both the city and the school district stand to gain substantially in both property taxes and sales tax revenues.

If the project fails, the city still owns land that is highly marketable for resale to other potential developers.

If a project with economic incentives cannot be done at a local government level, then we would ask where could it be done? The local marketplace is the truest form of democracy and an opportunity to test whether the bet the City of Edmond has made will pay off for both the city and its taxpayers.

We support the steps taken thus far by the city with the hope that they will continue to show restraint, diligence and the use of good business sense as leaders finalize negotiations with developers for a project that could greatly benefit all of Edmond.