Larry Nichols to lead Oklahoma City’s Alliance for Economic Development

Officials have announced the formation of The Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City, a new not-for-profit organization that will consolidate and coordinate development functions of several public agencies into one partnership. Larry Nichols, Executive Chairman of Devon Energy is serving as the organization’s founding Chairman. 

 Leaders from each of the organizations involved recognized the need for better collaboration and improved services for the city’s economic development (ED) programs. Founding Directors of the new alliance are J. Larry Nichols, Patrick J. Ryan, Clayton I. Bennett, Roy Williams, James D. Couch, Meg Salyer and Ronald J. Norick.

 “Oklahoma City is at a unique stage in its growth,” explained Nichols. “As a community, we have implemented strategies that are attracting investment in our city at an ever-increasing rate, yet the process and entities to help facilitate that growth have been the same for many years. This new entity is very similar to successful organizations in other cities, and consolidates all the tools for development into one toolbox. This really gives us a framework to fast track critical projects.”

 Nichols runs one of Oklahoma’s most significant energy businesses. Last fall and winter, he served as co-chairman of Governor Mary Fallin’s transition team.
 As a young man, Nichols served as law clerk to Chief Justice Earl Warren and Justice Tom Clark of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1967 to 1968. He then served as special assistant to Assistant Attorney General William Rehnquist in the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.

 A leader in the energy industry, Nichols serves as chairman of the American Petroleum Institute and is on the executive committee of the board of directors for America’s Natural Gas Alliance. From 2005 to 2006, Nichols served as the chairman of the Oklahoma State Chamber. He is on the board of the Business Industry Political Action Committee in Washington, D.C. and is the former chairman and a current director of the American Exploration & Production Council.

 It is anticipated that The Alliance will work under contract to several policy-making bodies, including The City of Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust and the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority. Functions of The Alliance will be coordination, management, planning and implementation of specific projects, such as identification and creation of economic development sites, redevelopment programs, retail recruitment and incentives, and other public-private redevelopment opportunities.

 Organizers believe the cooperative structure will be efficient, consolidating some staffing resources and drawing on other City, Urban Renewal and other professional resources as needed. It is a project-centered entity, not an organization with long-term administration of ongoing programs. 

 Aside from practical efficiencies, organizers say private development community will benefit from the group’s work.

 “We want a one-stop shop for a company or developer that is looking to invest in Oklahoma City,” Nichols continued. “Rather than a series of meetings with numerous entities on a project, this single point of contact makes Oklahoma City that much more attractive for investment.”

 Jim Couch, City Manager for Oklahoma City, highlighted what he believed was the need for the entity. “Repeatedly over the past several years we have been presented with huge development opportunities – the Dell Campus, the Skirvin Hotel, the Bass Pro Shop to name a few. Each time that occurs, we pull staff from here and there to put together the project and we get the job done, but there is a better way. This new partnership gives us ongoing resources that can be focused on these programs every day. We will have the resources to apply to a broader variety of projects and be more effective.”

 The board of directors for the new organization is composed of seven members, including: a trustee of the Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust, a commissioner of Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority, a trustee of the OKC Industrial and Cultural Facilities Trust; a trustee of Oklahoma Industries Authority, the City Manager and two at-large directors. 

 The role of the board is not to make policy decisions, but to engage its President, oversee delivery of economic development implementation services to public agencies, and conduct long-term succession planning for existing personnel and professional resources.

 “This new entity really fills the gaps in our city’s development processes,” Couch concluded. “We have seen the creative and successful projects that entities like this have implemented nationally and bringing this model to our community will really facilitate the development that we expect to attract to Oklahoma City.”
Note: Editor Patrick B. McGuigan contributed to this report.