The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber reports recent increases in commercial development in Oklahoma City, especially along the route of the new streetcar. The chamber also reports 72 active projects, which it says could bring additional jobs to the city.
Katelyn Howard: This is the Business Intelligence Report, a weekly conversation about business news in Oklahoma. I'm Katelyn Howard. Joining me is Russell Ray, editor of The Journal Record. There've been a lot of recent stories by your reporters about economic development in Oklahoma City, but there's an article by Molly Fleming that sums up many of the changes the city is undergoing. She writes that there is an increased interest in establishing or expanding commercial operations in the city. The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber's recruitment team has 72 active projects. How does the chamber define an "active project," and what job fields do these projects fall under?
Russell Ray: Yes, well a commercial project is defined as a client the chamber is talking to about either coming to the city and establishing a commercial development or expanding an existing commercial operation. More than half of those 72 projects you mentioned are manufacturing projects, and many of those projects we're told are being pursued by companies in the aerospace sector. Other projects are specifically designed for office use. One example is the Heartland building under construction on Broadway Avenue near NW Sixth Street. Another example is Echo Energy, which plans to move into the Kerr Building once renovations are completed.
Howard: Now the article also mentions that Rural Sourcing Inc., which provides IT outsourcing services, will open its office in the Plow Building by April. This is projected to bring about 150 jobs to Oklahoma City. If the chamber is able to secure space for all of these projects, about how many total jobs would it create, and what would be the broader economic impact?
Ray: Well if all of the projects are realized, we're told they would bring more than 18,000 jobs to the Oklahoma City area. Those projects also represent about $4.6 billion in capital investment and would account for about 16 million square feet of commercial space. By most accounts, 2018 was a very good year for commercial development. About $4 billion in new construction was started just last year, which is a 6 percent increase over 2017.
Howard: And a lot of this development has occurred along the route for the new OKC streetcar, which opened in December. The total route covers about five miles and includes five streetcars, making a total of 22 stops.
Ray: That's right. The chamber did a study on the public and private investment within three blocks of the route. The study found that more than $1.6 billion in public and private investments were made within the streetcar systems impact zone. So the number of jobs along the route is also up 16 percent, and streetcar ridership has now surpassed 120,000 people since the system launched in December.
Howard: And Oklahoma City is already known for some of its historic hotels like The Skirvin and the Colcord Hotel, but the article also mentions that there has and will continue to be an increase in hotels and housing.
Ray: Yes, much of the construction downtown over the next three years will be related to hotel development. There are more than 3,000 rooms currently downtown. But by 2021, downtown could have more than 5,000 rooms in 34 hotels. More than 600 of those rooms will be at the Omni Hotel. In addition to hotels, units for more permanent housing are also on the rise in downtown. Right now, there are more than 4,000 housing units in the area with another 800 units either planned or under construction.
Howard: Russell Ray is editor of The Journal Record. Thanks for your time today, Russell.
Ray: My pleasure, Katelyn. Thank you.
Howard: KGOU and The Journal Record collaborate weekly on the Business Intelligence Report. You can follow both of us on social media. We're on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, @journalrecord and @kgounews. You'll find links to the stories we discussed during this episode at journalrecord.com. And this conversation, along with previous episodes of The Business Intelligence Report, are available on our website, kgou.org. For KGOU and the Business Intelligence Report, I'm Katelyn Howard.
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