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.
Businesses 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.”
That 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.