Canadian County drops out of economic development group

Commissioners don’t renew membership in Greater OKC Partnership

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Richard Clements, manager of the Greater Oklahoma City Regional Partnership, speaks to Canadian County Commissioners at their Aug. 8th meeting in El Reno. Neither Commissioner Dave Anderson nor Commissioner Marc Hader seconded Commissioner Jack Stewart’s motion to renew Canadian County’s membership in the economic development group. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)

By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

EL RENO – Canadian County Commissioners have declined to renew membership in a regional economic development group.

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The three-member board, at its Aug. 8th meeting, took no action on a request to pay $17,960 to the Oklahoma City Economic Development Foundation in fiscal year 2023 for the Greater OKC Partnership.

Neither Board Chairman Dave Anderson nor District 1 Commissioner Marc Hader would second District 3 Commissioner Jack Stewart’s motion to continue Canadian County’s participation.

Dave Anderson

“I do believe in economic development,” said Anderson, the District 2 commissioner. “I just feel like Canadian County’s approach to economic development is direct investment into those things that impact our economy.”

Anderson cited the Canadian County Expo & Event Center as a recent “significant investment” the county has made in economic development.

“We have spent upwards of $20 million investing in a facility that will host and draw events to our county,” he said. “Quality of life is really what people are looking for. I believe Canadian County offers that.

“Our health department is another quality-of-life enhancement that the county has committed to.”

Chairman Anderson pointed out how Canadian County works with municipalities to improve infrastructure, which he called another “key component” of economic growth.

Canadian County has a trust authority that provides county funds for its school districts and is a member of all local chambers of commerce.

Commissioner Hader doesn’t believe paying the membership fee to be part of the Greater OKC Partnership is worth the benefit it offers Canadian County.

Hader said the best way for government to encourage economic development is by providing “great” infrastructure – roads, bridges, drainage structures, and water/sewer lines – to the residents and businesses it serves.

Anderson’s and Hader’s decision not to approve renewing Canadian County’s membership came after a presentation by Richard Clements, manager of the Greater Oklahoma City Regional Partnership.

“This is a contribution that the county can make toward economic development,” Clements told commissioners, thanking them for their previous financial support.

The Greater OKC Regional Partnership is comprised of economic development organizations, city, county and state leaders, tribal governments, utilities, and education entities who work together to promote the region and work on economic development projects.

Citing direct and indirect benefits including housing growth, Commissioner Stewart said he’s “always believed” being a member of the Greater OKC Partnership has been good for Canadian County and its municipalities.

Other counties in the Greater OKC Regional Partnership are Kingfisher, Grady, Logan, Oklahoma, Cleveland, Pottawatomie, Lincoln, and Payne.

“We view ourselves as a 10-county area because we draw a 50-mile radius from the center of Oklahoma City,” Clements said. “All the counties captured within that 50-mile radius – that really is our market area and our development area.”

The Greater OKC Partnership has existed for 18 years and has about 40 paid members (one less without Canadian County) and some 150 non-paid members.

“The counties that are involved are paying on behalf of the people that in the communities within the county,” Clements explained. “In the instance of Canadian County, that’s the population outside of Oklahoma City.”

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JUST LOOK AT THE GROWTH

In his Aug. 8th presentation to Canadian County Commissioners, Clements emphasized the importance of the partnership’s economic development efforts in the region that attract retail investment by companies who create jobs.

“The growth that has happened within Canadian County over the last 10 years is largely a product of that effort,” he said. “But we can’t claim everything.

“The truth is there’s so much activity; there’s so many things happening.”

Clements congratulated commissioners because Canadian County has been “one of the fastest-growing counties in the entire United States.”

“It’s been phenomenal,” Clements said. “And the growth puts a lot of demands on the county, certainly.”

That growth has generated increase property tax revenues that largely funds Canadian County’s budget, he noted.

During the presentation, Hader asked Clements to list items the Greater OKC Partnership has done to directly benefit Canadian County, especially outside Oklahoma City.

The major contribution has been “the growth of the economy,” Clements replied.

Hader was not impressed with that response, hoping to hear about some specific economic development projects the partnership has brought to Canadian County outside Oklahoma City.

Canadian County Commissioners had voted to financially support the organization for about 15 years, covering the cost to municipalities in the county. They previously paid about $30,000 annually.

The partnership is using a new funding formula for its paying members based on a 23-cents-per-capita population.

The proposed amount for Canadian County (outside Oklahoma City limits) came to $17,960 this time – which Anderson and Hader still did not want to pay.

Chairman Anderson reiterated his preference to invest directly in economic development projects.

“Economic development is very important to Canadian County – and it has been for a long time,” he added.

“We are proud of our county and the way it’s growing.”

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