by Kelley Chambers
The Journal Record September 12, 2007
OKLAHOMA CITY – For many years, people around the nation, and the world, have identified Oklahoma City only with its disasters, Mayor Mick Cornett said Tuesday. In a “fireside chat,” sans the fireplace, Cornett talked with Carl Edwards, of Price Edwards & Co. in front of a group of retail professionals from around the country about many aspects of Oklahoma City. Article Tools Printer friendly edition E-mail this to a friend RSS Feed Digg this history Add to “Oklahoma City lacks an identity on a national basis especially on the East and West coasts,” Cornett said. “The last time most people on the East and West coasts thought about Oklahoma City was when the bombing occurred in 1995 or when the tornado went through in 1999.”

With Oklahoma City playing host to the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets for two seasons, however, Cornett said it helped put Oklahoma City on the map. Cornett said branding the city with a sports team would not only increase awareness of the city, but also spur new business and development. “The reason I was pushing for major league sports to begin with was because Oklahoma City lacked an identity, and I thought sports was going to be one of the best ways to get us there as fast as we could,” he said.

Edwards asked Cornett what was one of the central factors that contributed to helping Oklahoma City get to the point it is at today. “I think much of the energy that you see today goes back to the vote for MAPS back in December of 1993,” Cornett said. “It has indirectly or directly led to everything we’ve accomplished today that’s positive.” Another initiative Cornett touted to the crowd, primarily from Oklahoma and Arkansas, is the Core to Shore project, which with the movement south of Interstate 40, will open about 90 new blocks for downtown development. “Interstate 40 had been a barrier to downtown development,” Cornett said. “Most of our buildings stopped as soon as they got to I-40.”
Cornett and Edwards both discussed that in addition to projects such as Core to Shore that there is a positive working relationship between the city and business leaders and a mutual desire for increased sales tax revenue. “Another advantage retailers have in our city is that in the state of Oklahoma municipalities rely heavily on sales tax for their revenues,” Cornett said. “Over half of our money comes from sales tax so we tend to be very aggressive when it comes to retail.”

Edwards drew laughter from the audience when he asked Cornett more specifically about NBA recruiting efforts by Oklahoma City. Last month Seattle SuperSonics minority owner Aubrey McClendon was fined $250,000 by the league for saying the Oklahoma City ownership group intended to move the team to Oklahoma City. “We’re not proactively seeking any specific franchise,” Cornett said. “But if and when a franchise becomes available, we will seek it as hard as you can imagine, and we’ll probably get a deal done.”