Edmond Economics

Written by Paul Fairchild in the January 2014 Issue

There wasn’t a whole lot going on around the small section of I-35 between Memorial and Danforth in 1998, the year it was named the Shannon Miller Parkway. Today, it’s an economic powerhouse stacked with buildings dedicated to healthcare and retail—the two biggest drivers of Edmond’s economy. It’s a sign that Edmond is growing—that the city is looking at more record growth as it moves into 2014.

“In that area, we’ve got economic activity moving to join other economic activity. It generates productivity gains for both parties. It doesn’t matter if they’re in the same industry. You still get productivity gains,” says Russell Evans, an economist at the Oklahoma City University’s Meinders School of Business.

Dr. Russell EvansBusinesses along the corridor are diverse. The Sam’s Club located on I-35 is certainly contributing its fair share to the sales tax. Francis Tuttle recently opened its Business Innovation Center there. The Summit Indoor Sports Complex is also slated for development along the same route in 2014.

“We’re in the middle of a strong trend in sales tax collections. We’re 18.9 percent above this same point in time two years ago,” says Edmond Mayor Charles Lamb. To put this into perspective, Lamb quotes that the City of Edmond only projected six percent growth for the annual budget. And there’s more on the way. With recent sewer and water utility improvements in the area, commercial site plans are flooding City Hall. The city council is harnessing the momentum and planning more utility improvements on Covell extending through Sooner Road.

The area is also home to roughly $200 million in investments in healthcare facilities. Mercy Edmond I-35, despite sustaining severe damage during one of last year’s tornadoes, will open in 2014. Integris Health Edmond has been operating in the same area for over a year. Hospitals make for good contributors to a city’s economy by providing quality jobs and attracting clients from outlying areas.

“When I drive around Edmond, I don’t see a clearly defined center of economic activity. I wonder if the I-35 stretch will ultimately become a new density center, with retail and healthcare complexes. I can say that I appreciate the fact that the city leadership is aggressively thinking about we need a core of economic activity,” says Evans.

Edmond is also continuing its aggressive development of what economists call “amenities.” The layman thinks of amenities as swimming pools or fireplaces. We look for them when we book hotels. But economists are talking about the kinds of comforts that attract people and businesses to settle in a particular area. And Edmond definitely has amenities. “Edmond can build on the amenities it already has,” says Evans. “The city is fortunate to have a strong school district, great parks and public spaces, and a major university. These are all component pieces of an amenity complex.”

Money TreeThat idea of an amenity complex is working. There are over 30 parks in Edmond and the city’s distinctive promotion of public art makes it one of the most fun and interesting venues in the state. The attraction is strong. Edmond’s phenomenal population growth over the last ten years is evidence. And that population enjoys an average household income of $100,000—well over the state’s average.

For the next year, economic predictions for Oklahoma range for each community. The Tulsa area will remain relatively stable. The Oklahoma City metro area will grow. There will be more jobs, there will be better jobs, and there will be many people relocating to take them. And when it comes to relocating in the metro area, Edmond, of course, is always the number one choice.

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