Remembering the past, building upon the present and planning for the future: This comprised the message city and state leaders addressed at today’s 2010 State of Bricktown.
At the event, Jeannette Smith, former director of marketing at Penn Square Mall, was announced as Bricktown Association’s new executive director.
“This is an absolutely wonderful time to be a part of Bricktown, and I felt so privileged to be able to be a part of that,” she said. “I, like many of you, have grown up in this area and I have been able to watch the wonderful transformation of Bricktown and Oklahoma City over the last couple of decades, and it’s a remarkable privilege and opportunity to be a part of it.”
Despite a common school of thought that taxes are bad, state Treasurer Scott Meacham told the crowd that while nobody likes to pay them, they are necessary.
“Sometimes, tax investment can give an unbelievable return on investment and completely change the identity of a community,” he said. “And that’s what’s happening in Oklahoma City.”
He reminisced about coming to OKC from his hometown of Chickasha, and being somewhat taken aback with all of the old, abandoned buildings in the district.
“But MAPS completely changed that dynamic,” he said, noting the first MAPS raised $356 million of public investment in infrastructure in Bricktown.
Since that time, “We’ve seen $3.1 billion or private investment that that initial seed investment brought along, as well as another $1.9 billion of announces new investments “¦ that’s over a 10-to-1 return on your money. This is an instance where we can say taxes were not only a necessary evil, but they absolutely revitalized and changed the whole composition and complexion of this city and this state.”
He credits Bricktown with being the driving force behind Oklahoma City being the state leader in pulling out of the recession, as approximately 3 million people a year visit and spend money in Bricktown.
“But you can’t rest where you are,” he says. “My philosophy’s always been whenever you’re standing still, everyone else is moving past you. And there’s another big infusion of public money getting ready to be spent in this general vicinity through MAPS 3 “ a much larger investment of cash even than the initial Bricktown investment. I think that has to be done smartly, it has to be done wisely, it has to be done with an eye on the future, but it also has to be done with an eye toward building upon the success we already have.”
Scott Booker, CEO of ACM@UCO, also announced expansion of Bricktown’s “school of rock,” which began with just 160 students and has grown to 400 this fall. The facility will take a third of another floor in its existing building and will open a new, all-ages venue at 323 E. Sheridan.
“Part of what we’re going to do is help our students find jobs, find ways that they can work here in our community,” Booker said.
The institution also is developing a new grant program to help spare students’ expenses by either having a venue students can use or equipment they may borrow. The grant would assist by providing small loans or money to help start up and create small businesses.
“That’s ultimately what the music business is about: Don’t think (of them) as a bunch of weird artists running around. They’re a small business that potentially could bring millions and millions and millions of dollars here “¦ all we have to do is create some more successful artists who decide to stay here.”