PCDA's Forward Together Plan

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Positioning the Ponca City Economy for the “Next Normal”

April, 2020


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Overview

The Forward Together Plan is a plan of the Ponca City Development Authority (PCDA) to drive the re-emergence of the Ponca City economy in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not a statement on the part of PCDA that the pandemic is or will be over by any certain date. Rather it is a recognition of the significant changes the pandemic has brought or is likely to bring and seeks to guide the local economy through the post-shut down period and the restarting of the economy.

As noted on the two diagrams above, PCDA’s focus is on three specific elements of the economic restart. Those are the “Core,” which is the protection and growth of current industry, the “Ignite” which is the recruitment and catalyst element, as well as the “People” element which includes workforce, marketing and community building.

PCDA, however, has significant legal and financial limitations in terms of the areas in which the economic development authority may work. Most of these are established by law and outside of the ability of PCDA to change. The three elements of the “Stronger Together” plan represent the areas in which PCDA has the legal authority to work and therefore those areas are the focus of this plan. Nevertheless, the other seven areas shown in the diagram above are critical to economic growth. Their inclusion (mentioned, really) in this plan is intended to help the community understand the vital role these other elements play in economic growth. All are discussed very briefly at the end of the plan.

It should also be noted that this plan fully anticipates that it will change. Its development was in direct response to the pandemic and it has an April 2020 perspective. As conditions and opportunities evolve, PCDA fully expects to pivot in response to the emerging realities of the situation. As a result, some plan strategies and tactics may change or be dropped or replaced as the situation changes. The overall philosophy of the plan, however, is that communities can and should influence their economic future. Planned, proactive measures are far preferable to passive reaction and will better enable Ponca City to economically move forward, together.

CORE

Over the past several decades, more than 75% of all new jobs created in the United States have come from existing companies already in the community. Moreover, it costs considerably less to work with existing companies on job creation since there is no need to find them, market to them or travel to them. They know the benefits of operating in Ponca City, their workforce is here, the supply chain has been established and they have a location in which to operate.

Forward Together will focus on the following to help protect and grow jobs in the Next Normal:

  1. PCDA’s focus during the pandemic and in future similar events shall be on insuring that Ponca City’s primary industries have accurate, current and appropriate information in order to obtain any resources that may become available including but not limited to federal and state grants and loans, official information, appropriate contacts for general supplies (i.e. PPE) and services (i.e. sanitized cleaning), etc. PCDA does is not legally allowed to make grants itself;
  2. Survey the business community to determine the economic impact of the pandemic;
  3. Identify a COVID-19 testing opportunity for primary industries to avoid the need to quarantine any employee who has a fever or “normal” illness;
  4. Provide assistance to local companies that wish to facilitate working from home;
  5. Budget funds to incentivize industry certifications in Ponca City’s primary industries. PCDA shall pay half the cost of an industry audit or $6,000, whichever is greater, in order to assist companies in gaining the necessary certifications they will need to compete for supply chain business, a great deal of which is expected to return “on shore” following the pandemic;
  6. PCDA will produce and promote a digital industry service guide on-line that will market the abilities of Ponca City’s primary industries. This will allow companies in other areas to search and find Ponca City businesses which should help local businesses diversify and expand their customer base;
  7. PCDA will develop a program to promote the enhancement of technology, including artificial intelligence, within local industries. This is not intended to provide funding for individual companies, rather it is to make sure that local industries see, consider and research the best available technologies to help them remain competitive and productive, particularly in the event of another such incident;
  8. PCDA will develop a program, with a focus on working with partner organizations, to secure and make available certain shared equipment that can be utilized by (at least) two or more Ponca City industries;
  9. When they are scheduled in the future, PCDA shall sponsor Ponca City companies at industry trade shows for the purpose of identifying and diversifying their customer base. These shows may include but are not limited to the Design 2 Part shows, Made in America and others;
  10. PCDA, working with Ponca City Mainstreet, shall develop a local shopping portal to allow Ponca City businesses to market their goods and services online and to provide a portal for local residents seeking to purchase goods locally. The first phase will be in downtown and will then go city-wide after the experiences of the downtown pilot project are incorporated into planning;
  11. PCDA will develop a reoccurrence plan to provide to businesses in the event an event such as the pandemic occurs again. This plan shall be built on the existing PCDA disaster recovery plan and will be developed with other threats in mind as well;
  12. Connect Ponca City companies with the Oklahoma Businesses Assistance Network (OBAN) to facilitate government contracting opportunities;

IGNITE

Most people view business attraction as the fundamental function of economic development. It produces, however, less than 3% of new jobs created nationwide. “Recruitment” often serves as the tip of the ice burg, the visible aspect of economic development. The investments made represent new funding and quite often add diversification to the local economy. It is also an area in which a local community can have the most influence. Without an assertive, active economic development program, new industries will almost certainly bypass communities to find a place that does.

The “Ignite” element is so named as it intended to utilize new projects and investment as a catalyst for new growth. The Forward Together plan will strive to accomplish the following:

  1. Develop an approach to workforce marketing that in some manner captures the skills sets of the existing Ponca City workforce and the training programs available. Emphasize any programs or resources that do not exist elsewhere.
  2. Produce “virtual tours” of appropriate available sites and buildings in order to market those facilities in an environment of reduced travel. Done right, these tours will be searchable and will be more easily visited by prospects. This should lead to greater interest. There will be fewer onsite visits but the quality of those visits should increase significantly;
  3. As a matter of efficiency (as opposed to any other limitation), target industries and site consultants who work within those industries that are within existing Ponca City clusters. More specifically, companies that either provide service or products to, or could be customers of, existing Ponca City companies and work within those industries as a starting point;
  4. Focus on recruiting one or two major investment projects. This could either be a big name company or a large financial investment. The goal is to provide a third party “endorsement” for others to gain confidence in making investments in (and moving companies to) Ponca City;
  5. Align potential incentives to the “marque” companies contemplated in point four. The justification is that one or two catalyst projects will lead to additional projects so additional incentives now will produce greater investment in the future;
  6. Investigate the potential for a specific campaign aimed at marketing the City Central building to appropriate business services companies. Make sure three “spec” office suites are leasable at any given time;
  7. Gather and provide accurate, timely demographic information both to Ponca City companies, organizations, etc. as well as to external companies, site consultants, prospects, etc. This should include secondary sources widely available as well as primary information generally found only within the community. Put this information online in order to better tell Ponca City’s story;
  8. Develop a spec building in order to provide a new facility for companies that may be seeking a facility that meets current standards and is more easily adaptable to any changes resulting from the response to the pandemic;
  9. Update the PCDA website to keep it fresh and highly searchable;

PEOPLE

Economic development is about growing a community. A community is all about its people. In any situation such as a pandemic or natural disaster, it is perfectly normal for people to believe that the impact of that disaster, or the opportunities for the future, will be better elsewhere. Even in a globally impactful event, this normal, human reaction must be addressed. With the understanding that workforce remains the number one issue in economic development, PCDA’s first objective in this element is to retain the people that are already in the community. This will include programs to build the sense of community, a sense of belonging, and an awareness that, at least as of this writing, Ponca City is faring much better than other places with respect to the impacts of the pandemic. This broadens the definition of economic development from just business to businesses and people. This may not be a permanent shift, only time will tell.

PCDA cannot provide incentives to individuals. The organization can, however, provide financial and other support to programs that support the general economic growth of Ponca City. The goal of this element begins with the recognition that companies will look for communities that have people. People will be looking for certain things and Ponca City can or already is providing those amenities. In short, the goal of this element is to make Ponca City a very attractive location for people and businesses, rather than focusing on financial inducements (become a magnet rather than use a hook).

The “People” element of Forward Together will do the following:

  1. Produce four videos that build support for local small businesses, thank essential workers, highlight the importance of manufacturing and build awareness of the economic opportunities for Ponca City coming out of the pandemic;
  2. Sponsor a drive-in movie event with partners in order to provide a safe community event that builds upon a sense of pride and potentially provides a catalyst for other such events;
  3. Develop a community mural at the City Central building that allows people to be the artists, building pride, ownership and involvement;
  4. Develop an outdoor event area at City Central in order to host community events in an outdoor, accessible setting that would otherwise not be possible in the existing facility;.
  5. Consider other, similar activities that provide Ponca City residents with a sense of place and community and provide them with an outlet to “invest” their energy in Ponca City;
  6. Develop a program to attract remote workers to Ponca City;
  7. Complete the augmented reality interactive game for Ponca City school students to help them experience future career opportunities in the community;
  8. Investigate the effectiveness of an online “Girl Power” camp this summer;
  9. Investigate the potential for marketing programs that attract people to Ponca City who want the general amenities a city provides but do not want the many challenges an urban environment means today;
  10. Develop workforce training programs in conjunction with Pioneer Technology Center and/or other institutions that will help existing workers, students and others meet the rapidly changing training needs that the deployment of new technology will bring;
  11. If necessary, move the scheduled small business pitch-off to online (Zoom) and consider options for a small “second stage” business pitch-off.
  12. Expand existing small business development programs and investigate new ones that make Ponca City a true center for entrepreneurship;
  13. Develop certain amenities at City Central (i.e. reconfigure the co-work center, develop a podcast studio, etc.) that will help launch and grow small businesses;
  14. Complete the 2020 census campaign, budgeting additional resources for the extension period.

And another thing…

The items outlined below represent areas beyond of the legal and financial abilities of PCDA. They are integral to the local economy, however, and should be part of any plan for the future.

Broadband

The need for connectivity has never been more apparent. It will be a fundamental amenity required for any community to compete in the next normal. This does not mean any level of connectivity. It references truly high-speed connectivity. The city’s “Fiber to the Home” project is addressing this need and will position Ponca City well in this respect. Nevertheless, the consistent changes in the digital world require vigilance in this area as the region’s population is somewhat problematic to private investment which typically seeks higher population density.

Child Care

This is a universal challenge due to the economics of the industry. Communities that solve this problem will be the leaders of tomorrow. The pandemic has made this issue more important.

Education

Education and workforce training will become more, not less, important in the months and years ahead. The deployment of new technologies, which will simply accelerate that which has been in place for decades, will require a variety of skills, and lifelong learning and training. No one will ever be done gaining training and skills. Moreover, education is likely to become far more on line which underscores the importance of broadband, and provides opportunity for institutions that can work, train and teach in the digital world.

Health Care

No community will truly succeed going forward without an appropriate medical infrastructure. Alliance Health responded extremely well during the pandemic and Ponca City’s allied health providers met the challenge as well. This is an area that is not lacking, it simply needs to be protected and potentially grown as appropriate.

Housing

Ponca City continues to lack housing options for potential new residents. “A house for sale” s not a housing option. People make housing selections based upon referred options and amenities. Ponca City housing stock is generally older and does not often have the amenities 21st Century home shoppers seek. This is true throughout non-urban America and Ponca City is in better position than most smaller cities. Nevertheless, it continues to require attention.

Transportation

Ponca City has a good car transportation network thanks to a dedicated sales tax. Cars will become more, not less popular in the short to mid-term as mass transit is viewed with suspicion, at least for a while. This emphasizes the need for continued support of major routes such as U.S. 60, U.S. 177, U.S. 77 and Interstate 35. The resurgence of the America love affair with the auto will diminish somewhat in the years ahead and the need for rail, air traffic, etc. will grow and needs support.

Plan for Next Time

PCDA is including this in the Forward Together plan as it relates to primary industry. The overall community needs to keep this in mind going forward not just as it relates to pandemics. Natural disasters, the loss of utilities including broadband, terrorists threats and more are, regrettably, things for which any community needs to be prepared.

GRANTS TO BUSINESSES IMPACTED BY COVID-19

Governor Stitt recently announced the new Oklahoma Business Relief Program (OBRP). This program may provide grants of up to $25,000 for any business or 501c6 organization that experienced a revenue loss of at least 25% due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program will utilize up to $100 million of CARES Act funding to provide these grants to businesses throughout the state. Similar to the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) businesses must apply through a bank.

OBRP Key Points

  1. Maximum grant amount of $25,000;
  2. Open to any business that was eligible for the Payroll Protection Program (PPP). That covers almost all Ponca City businesses. New: It is also open to any 501c6 organization as well;
  3. The business or organization must have seen a revenue drop of at least 25% for the months of January through May, 2020 as compared to the same period in 2019;
  4. 20% of the funds for this ($20 million) will be set aside for minority owned businesses;
  5. Business must apply through their banks, just like with the PPP. Participation by the banks is voluntary so we encourage you to contact your local bank and find out if they plan on participating;
  6. A business will be asked, as part of the application process, to prove that they experienced a revenue drop of at least 25% for the first five months of 2020 and that will likely require the submission of financials. The Oklahoma Department of Commerce has said that they want to make the program as simple as possible. Keep in mind, however, that this is utilizing federal dollars so there will be requirements with which the state must comply;
  7. The deadline for applications will be July 10th. Approved grants will begin receiving grant fund on July 17th;

The Oklahoma Department of Commerce has said that applications will be evaluated on a first come, first served basis. Business will need to apply through a bank and the bank will then submit the application to the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.

If you are interested AND you qualify by virtue of a revenue loss, we urge you not to delay and get in touch with your bank as soon as possible.

More information on the Oklahoma Business Relief Program can be found at www.okcommerce.gov/relief.


PCDA's Forward Together Plan