OKC Innovation District CEO/President Katy Boren's Speech at the Chamber Breakfast:
Before I talk about the Innovation District, it is most appropriate to start by recognizing the Oklahoma Health Center as one of this city’s best examples of how the combination of vision, collaboration and hard work come together to generate prosperity and a better quality of life. Now, our community is poised to embark on a new vision – one of an Innovation District that acts as the next chapter of growth and prosperity for Oklahoma City and the State.
The path we are now on in the Innovation District is to capitalize on our dominant industries; investing in high-quality places where research institutions, firms, and talent concentrate and connect. We want to be more competitive as a region, both in attracting investment and the talent necessary to continue our community’s economic expansion. And, not incidentally, it is critical that we provide more opportunities for area residents who are not currently connected to the innovation economy.
The report generated by the Brookings Institution and the Project for Public Spaces recognizes this hub of our region’s innovation assets and gives us a roadmap for our work to create a more vibrant and inclusive district here in the heart of our city, but also to spur innovation and connectivity across our region.
Since Brookings released its report last year, we have already seen our collaborative work bring success. While the critical task of finalizing the governing entity was underway, we held three symposia, focused on imaging, data, and sensors. These events brought together the brightest minds from across our region, and across many industries, to discuss their work and research and to identify how a discovery in health might impact energy, or aerospace impact weather and more. These connections between and among our scientific and tech communities are a shining example of what we intend to accomplish.
Similarly, our Mind Meld events – one of the recommendations of the placemaking task force -- have brought together people from across the innovation district, giving scientists a chance to exchange ideas outside of the lab and meet potential partners right here in the Innovation District.
Another important next step is the implementation of the Innovation District Project Plan, which defines how tax increment financing can be utilized to support the initiatives of the Innovation District. These activities will be focused on innovation, placemaking, enhanced education and training. Under this project plan, the TIF can be used for such things as the financing, construction, or long-term leasing of business incubators and accelerator spaces, education and training facilities, public spaces such as conference facilities, gathering spaces, entertainment spaces and green space. Funding can also be used for enhanced educational programs, skills training programs, internships, workforce development, and entrepreneurial support activities.
As we transition into this new, emerging ecosystem known as the innovation district, our aim is to realize the potential of this community for turning ideas into jobs and new investment. Along with the newly formed board of directors, we are forming numerous committees and task forces to support the execution of the recommendations of the Brookings Institution report. We have a clear plan and are on track with our first year efforts.
The four strategies set forth by Brookings are large in scope. This is work that will not be accomplished overnight, but over the next five to ten years. These are strategies around which innovation district anchor institutions, firms, and civic leaders can rally our local and regional stakeholders to engage with time, expertise and resources. As a reminder, our four strategies are to Establish an Oklahoma Center for Energy and Health Collaboration; to implement a technology-based economic development and entrepreneurship effort within the innovation district; to create a denser, more active and better-connected mixed-use urban environment in and around the innovation district; and to do all of this work with a standing committee on diversity and inclusion that helps to forge better economic, social and physical connections between the innovation district and the surrounding underserved communities.
Work on one of these strategies -- to create a denser, more active, and better-connected mixed-use environment in and around the innovation district – is well underway. We are several months into a year-long Land Use and Strategic Development planning effort being funded jointly by the Alliance for Economic Development, City of Oklahoma City, OMES/Capitol-Medical Center Zoning Commission, Presbyterian Health Foundation and the University of Oklahoma. We are so fortunate to have Perkins+Will, a renowned international interdisciplinary, research-based architecture and design firm working on the plan. You will hear more detail about that process later this morning.
As you can see, momentum is building on our push to create a stronger innovation infrastructure – one that is based here in the innovation district, but has impacts across our region. The interest, enthusiasm and support around the Innovation District is overwhelming. Stay tuned – there is more coming soon, beginning with news about our district’s branding, as well as more ways to connect our innovation partners through membership, events and programming. We are truly at the beginning of a transformation. I look forward to working with each of you as we forge a new path for prosperity and success.