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June 27, 2014

City hotels seeing ‘significant’ boost from Senior Open

EDMOND — About a week away from the U.S. Senior Open at Oak Tree National, hotel rooms are increasingly scarce near the Interstate 35-Second Street interchange.

Thursday afternoon, Courtney Gray, general manager at the nearby Edmond Hampton Inn, said only about 10 of her 71 rooms remain available during the peak days of the July 7-13 event period. She said other hotels in the area are reporting similar rates.

“It’s wonderful,” said Gray, who has been in her position for 13 years. “We’re getting lots of phone calls. We are so excited the Senior Open is coming back to Edmond.”

Gray said some of her guests are coming from out west, states including California, Utah and Arizona. Her only disappointment, she said, is that many are staying about three nights, mostly Friday through Sunday, instead of the entire week.

More than 120,000 spectators — the current projection on the event website — are expected to attend the USGA’s U.S. Senior Open, and event staff anticipate an economic impact of more than $15 million to the Edmond and Oklahoma City economies.

While they’re here, visitors will choose where to eat, where to fill up their gasoline tanks and where to stay overnight, and the Edmond area offers many outstanding hotel options.

Cathy Williams-White, director of the Edmond Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the city’s hotel-motel sector will experience a significant boost from the tournament, which comes on the heels of LibertyFest, which draws more than 125,000 each year to the city.

Williams-White said the bureau will have a booth near the main tournament entrance, where staff will be handing out information about places to stay and eat in Edmond.

Local hotels also are competing with full-service options in Oklahoma City such as the Waterford and the Marriott, Williams-White said. Gray said the Edmond Hampton Inn offers guests amenities including excellent service, a warm breakfast, a free newspaper and free Wi-Fi and an indoor pool.

Edmond benefits from the hotel-motel sector through a lodging tax. Williams-White said Edmond hotels and motels are normally pretty busy this time of year with all the events in the area.

The Edmond Economic Development Authority publishes a hotel barometer, which tracks data such as gross receipts, lodging tax collected, number of nights sold, occupancy rate and revenue per available room. Lodging tax collections are based on a 4 percent lodging tax rate.

For example, in May 2013, when the tax collected $36,046, there were 14,140 room nights sold, 22,010 room nights available, an 81.87 percent occupancy rate, an average daily rate of $51.01 and revenue per available room of $41.76, according to the EEDA.

In May 2014, when the tax collected more than $39,012, there were 14,583 room nights sold, 22,010 room nights available, a 66.26 percent occupancy rate, an average daily rate of $68.09 and revenue per available room of $45.11.

Williams-White said the economic impact for Edmond’s hotel-motel sector is part of the $15 million-plus projection.

FOR SENIOR OPEN visitors still needing overnight accommodations, the Edmond Convention and Visitors Bureau offers a “find a hotel” search engine on its website — www.visitedmondok.com. For more information about the Senior Open, visit www.2014ussenioropen.com.

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  • Candidates disagree with White House’s minimum wage

    Gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, said the state needs to have serious growth in high-paying living wage jobs that will provide for Oklahomans.
    Dorman cautioned that while Oklahoma’s jobless rate improved in June, the state’s rankings for the well-being of children has dropped from 36th to 39th place, for one of the largest declines in the U.S., according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Project.
    The unemployment rate in June dropped to 4.5 percent, down a percentage point from 4.6 percent in May, according to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, Gov. Mary Fallin said this week.
    The state’s unemployment rate was more than 7 percent when Fallin was elected during the brink of the Great Depression. Alex Weintz, communications director for Fallin, pointed out that per capita income in Oklahoma was second in the nation from 2011 to 2013.
    The non partisan Congressional Budget office reported in February that raising the minimum wage could kill a half-million jobs in the United States.
    According to The Washington Times, CBO analysts reported, “Once the other changes in income were taken into account, families whose income would be below six times the poverty threshold under current law would see a small increase in income, on net, and families whose income would be higher under current law would see reductions in income, on net.”
    President Barack Obama in February signed an executive order to raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10 an hour.
    Weintz said the governor believes tax cuts have enabled families to keep more of their money.
    No one is talking about the under-employment rate of families working minimum wage jobs, Dorman said.
    “It’s all fine and good when you have fast-food jobs that don’t cover the bills and that counts toward your unemployment rate.”
    Oklahoma’s minimum wage reflects the federal minimum wage set at $7.25 an hour, a standard set in 2009.
    Fallin signed legislation this year to prohibit municipalities from raising their local minimum wage above $7.25 an hour.
    “If the minimum wage goes up to $15 in Oklahoma City, all of the sudden you would drive retail, business, service industry locations outside of the city limits and that would be detrimental to the economy, consumers and to businesses,” Weintz said.
    Fallin has said that she opposes raising the minimum wage in Oklahoma because it would stifle job growth for small business and lay off workers. A lot of people earning the $7.25 minimum wage are part-time workers and many of them are students, Weintz said.
    “We believe raising the minimum wage is not a good way to address poverty,” Weintz said. “A lot of people earning the minimum wage are actually people living with their parents or other people who are employed full time, and in many cases they are middle class families. So it’s not a good tool to reduce poverty.”
    Dorman said he does not necessarily support the proposed $10.10 an hour minimum federal minimum wage that is being discussed by Congress.
    “I think we need to have a living wage in Oklahoma that is reflective of our economy,” Dorman said.
    About 102,300 jobs have been added in Oklahoma since Fallin took office in January 2011, according to her office.
    The cost of living in the national economy tends to be higher in some other states, Dorman said.
    So a minimum wage increase should be tied to economic gains so that families can pay their bills and afford to care for their children, Dorman said.
    Independent candidates for governor include Richard Prawdzienski of Edmond, Joe Sills of Oklahoma City and Kimberly Willis of Oklahoma City.

    July 24, 2014

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