EDITORIAL: Citizen-driven renewal

By NEMS Daily Journal

Economic Forecast Conference speaker Mike Randle, publisher of Southern Business and Development magazine, an authoritative journal on the South’s economic activity, on Thursday directed Tupeloans concerned about the city’s path and well-being to inspirational, instructive reading.
In a brief reference to his magazine’s selection of Oklahoma City as the 2011 “Person of the Year,” Randle showed Tupelo a city that has done what Tupelo must do: Keep investing in itself for multiple and diverse projects over the long haul.
In the article he wrote about Oklahoma City, Randle said, “Since 1993, Oklahoma City Citizens have passed eight multi-million dollar initiatives to improve their hometown, even if that meant taxing themselves in order to raise the funds. Many times, these elections weren’t even close … Over the years, the investment made by Oklahoma City Citizens has totaled nearly $3 billion…”
Tupeloans have voted four times to invest 10 mills of general property tax in the Major Thoroughfare Program, but Oklahoma City’s investment in itself is broader, and it might serve as a model for what Tupeloans will need to undertake to revitalize neighborhoods, build necessary thoroughfares, and ensure both the city’s attractiveness for homeowners and young parents seeking good public schools.
Oklahoma City’s renewal began in 1993 with what was called Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS), and after eight times investing in different specific projects, Randle says Oklahoma City makes most Top 10 lists for the best American cities.
Randle said economic developers old him, “…. The citizens of Oklahoma City are responsible for the city’s remarkable resurgence as one of the best economic development stories in … the nation …
“A city that used to be known only for cowboys, dust and the overuse of concrete is now being referred to in conversation with phrases like ‘strong economy,’ ‘great quality of life’ and ‘big league city.’ Oklahoma City did not end up on these lists by accident.”
Tupelo’s successes have all been self-made, as have solutions for challenges.
The Tupelo spirit has always included learning from and applying the successes of others. Oklahoma City is bigger and different, but it faced challenges similar to Tupelo’s, and by relentless, creative, self-financed effort it is resolving them.
The full article on Oklahoma City can be found and read at http://www.sb-d.com/Features/Fall2010/2011PersonoftheYear/tabid/382/Default.aspx.