Forward Oklahoma City update: Return on investment

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber created the Forward Oklahoma City program more than 20 years ago to maximize Oklahoma City’s economic potential. Since that time, the program has helped create more than 100,000 jobs in the region. 

The Chamber launched the fifth iteration of FOKC programming in January after reevaluating how the current economy will impact Oklahoma City’s ability to grow industries and improve its quality of life. The following is an update on the program’s progress in its first six months.

Oklahoma Bioscience Highlighted at International Convention
More than 60 scientists, business leaders, educators and economic development officers from across the state of Oklahoma took the best of Oklahoma bioscience to the 2016 BIO International Convention in San Francisco in July. Stories about Oklahoma’s bioscience industry appeared in more than 280 media outlets. While there, members of the Oklahoma delegation met with more than 140 potential business partners in the OKBio booth.

Chamber Works to Strengthen Oklahoma City Retail Sector
The Chamber spearheaded Oklahoma City’s recruitment efforts at the International Council of Shopping Center’s RECon, the global retail real estate convention, in May. This convention allows the City to continue long-standing relationships with national retailers while sharing the benefits of being located in Oklahoma City.

Criminal Justice Reform Measures Continue to Move Forward
The Chamber and several community partners created a task force to focus on reforming the criminal justice system in Oklahoma County. With a specific focus on the overcrowding of the jail facility and the monetary inefficiencies of the current system, the task force partnered with the Vera Institute of Justice to examine how reforms could impact criminal justice in Oklahoma County. Vera has completed its first phase of research and is currently engaged in the second phase of gathering information.

Greater Grads Continues to Build a Better Workforce
The Greater Grads program, which was launched 10 years ago, continues to build Oklahoma City’s future workforce by building important relationships between Oklahoma’s college students and Oklahoma City’s employers. In February, the Chamber hosted its annual Greater Grads Career Fair for 450 students and 97 employers. In June, Greater Grads welcomed 345 interns to its InternOKC summer program. Both of these programs connect Oklahoma’s best and brightest college students with jobs and encourage them to stay in Oklahoma City after graduation.

Brookings, PPS Continue Their Study on Innovation
In the fall of 2015, Brookings Institute and the Project for Public Spaces chose Oklahoma City’s emerging innovation district as part of the Bass Initiative on Innovation and Placemaking study. Brookings and PPS have completed their initial assessment and are currently investigating priority issue areas. In the fall, Brookings and PPS will help define a unified vision and strategy for growth in the district. The Chamber launched and a newsletter to keep stakeholders informed on progress.

Chamber Advocates for Businesses During Legislative Session
The Chamber continued its ongoing effort to be the voice of business at the state Capitol this legislative session. Despite a historic $1.3 billion budget shortfall, the Chamber achieved its priorities in 2016. Read a complete overview at

The Chamber identified and protected six key incentive programs that are critical to economic and community development. Despite the pressure placed on scaling-back or repealing economic development programs, all six of these key programs were successfully preserved.

The Chamber worked closely with the NRA and OK2A to introduce SB 1057, which prohibits guns from being carried into horse shows; the State Fair; Big XII, NCAA high school sports; contests; Olympic-qualifying events; concerts and many other events. The Chamber then organized and led a broad coalition of businesses, law enforcement agencies and universities to defeat anti-business gun legislation that, if passed, would have undermined SB 1057.

The Chamber led an effort to defeat transgender bathroom discrimination legislation that would have been devastating to economic development in terms of lost federal funds, business investment and conventions. Oklahoma’s measure, SB 1619, would have allowed a student with a religious objection to request the use of separate bathroom, shower, or athletic changing facility while denying this right to a transgendered individual. The Chamber immediately engaged to educate legislators on the economic impact of a similar law passed in North Carolina.

Companies Increase Their Investment in Oklahoma City
In the first six months of 2016, the Chamber worked with new and expanding companies to bring more than 2,700 jobs to the region. These projects represent $100.3 million in payroll and $216.7 million in capital investment. The Chamber met with more than 200 existing companies as part of its business retention and expansion program. Companies like Progrexion, The Boeing Company and GE Oil & Gas have opened new facilities, expanding their presence in the region.

Oklahoma City Public Schools Compact Moves Forward with First Project
The Chamber-led Oklahoma City Schools Compact is partnering with Oklahoma City Public Schools to launch a city-wide initiative that encourages a love for reading at all grade levels by providing children with access to enhanced digital books.

For more information, visit