Record time

Wood’s agency submitted its grant application to the U.S. Economic Development Administration just in time. And as luck would have it, EDA Regional Director Pedro Garza was in town and available for an afternoon walk-through of the proposed infrastructure project at University North Park.

“I’ve done other EDA grants, and you had to make phone calls and ask favors and get congressmen to make calls,” Wood says. “You did all kinds of things, and this one just went so quickly.”

Like, six weeks quickly.

Slightly more than that passed between the submittal and the Norman City Council accepting the funds at its Oct. 23 meeting.

The funds will get work under way on the University North Park Advanced Manufacturing Center, a 30-acre, high-end business park targeting aerospace, medical devices, and other high-tech, advanced manufacturing.

The companion University North Park Corporate Center is a 30-acre, Class A office park that offers six pad sites, a large water feature, state-of-the-art telecommunications and immediate airport access.

Both projects are being developed by the Norman Economic Development Coalition — a four-way partnership of the city of Norman, University of Oklahoma, Moore Norman Technology Center, and the Sooner Centurions, a committee of the Norman Chamber of Commerce.

Wood says having Garza in town sealed the deal.

“We were able to bring him to Norman and physically show him the project and the visions we had. He could see what we were talking about and that this was a good deal,” Wood says. “He went back motivated to get us the grant.”

The last EDA grant Norman received was nearly a decade ago. The $1.25 million award helped fund David L. Boren Boulevard at OU.

This time, the money will be used to pay for one-third of the cost of roadways, sewer lines and other improvements on a quarter-mile stretch of road to be developed.

The grant application wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments.

Executive Director John G. Johnson says his association has been working on attaining a designation as an economic development district by the EDA for the past few years.

As
the only regional council in Oklahoma without an EDD designation, ACOG
submitted its Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy in August
2012, allowing Norman to submit an application.

“The
approval process for the project did come quickly if you consider the
length of time we’ve put into the CEDS and the EDD designation,” Johnson
says. “ACOG was happy to be involved with the project because we feel
that any federal investment in Norman, Edmond, Midwest

City or Oklahoma City is good for the entire Central Oklahoma region.”

Wood
says he couldn’t be happier with the ongoing project that has attracted
such national companies as Target, Jersey Mike’s, Five Guys Burgers and
Fries, Qdoba Mexican Grill, Embassy Suites Hotels and a host of others.

“If
you look at the time frame this has happened, where the economy has
been and the fact we’ve just been through a hellacious recession … I
think it’s gone really, really well,” Wood says. “And the best is yet to
come.”

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