Aug 11, 2014 8:27 PM by Andy Koen

Pueblo council members look to Oklahoma City for economic plan

PUEBLO - When it comes to boosting Pueblo's economy, city leaders have turned their attention to the Sooner State, and Oklahoma City in particular.

City Council members Sandy Daff, Ami Nawrocki, Chris Kaufman and Pueblo County Transportation Director Greg Severance took a trip last week to that community to learn about their successful revitalization plan.

"They invested in themselves instead of investing in companies to come to our community," Daff explained.

Voters in Oklahoma City first passed a one percent sales tax increase in 1993 creating the Metropolitan Area Projects program (MAPS.) The revenue has paid for a host of civic improvements including a downtown river walk, a new basketball arena and a new street car system.

Daff says it's an example of how infrastructure spending can help recruit companies.

"I think we are where Oklahoma City was in 1990," she said.

Daff, Kaufman and Nawrocki hosted a series of town hall meeting this summer to discuss using a portion of current and future tax dollars collected under the Pueblo Economic Development Corporation (PEDCO) 1/2 cent sales tax. The trio pulled back from plans to refer a measure to the ballot this November.

As Puebloans debate the future of their own half-cent sales tax program, PEDCO president Jack Rink said it's important to remember Pueblo is much smaller than Oklahoma City.

"It's not really an apples to apples comparison, Oklahoma City is a 1.2 million metropolitan area, they have an Air Force base, they are the state capital, they have tremendous oil and gas money," Rink said.

He also pointed out that Oklahoma city collects $8 million a month under the MAPS program or $96 million a year. The PEDCO half cent sales tax only brings in $7 million a year.

Rink went on the trip with the City Council members and said Oklahoma City's success can't be denied. However, infrastructure spending alone wasn't enough.

"There's a perception that Oklahoma City does community projects in lieu of economic assistance to companies. In reality they do both."

The Pueblo entourage were also told a key to the program's popularity in Oklahoma City was the united front that exists between business leaders and city government.

The City paid $3,952.19 for flights, hotel rooms and incidentals for the three council members and Assisant City manager for Community Investment to attend the trip. Rink's travel expenses were paid for by PEDCO.


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