Recognizing vision, tenacity
When we consider the transformation of Oklahoma City over the past quarter-century, Cathy O’Connor’s contributions to nearly every downtown initiative stand as some of the most impactful. This week, she will be recognized with the Dean A. McGee Award for her lifetime contributions to downtown, presented by Downtown Oklahoma City Partnership. I asked to take over her weekly column in The Journal Record to share a few of her accomplishments that led to this prestigious recognition.
As the president and CEO of The Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City since its formation 10 years ago and through her previous roles as assistant city manager and city finance director dating back to 1998, she has been instrumental in some of the city’s largest development projects. Her leadership helped to ensure the success of the MAPS 3 projects, redevelopment of the Skirvin Hilton, recruitment of Dell and GE’s global energy research facilities, and the creation of the city’s Strategic Investment Program, a $75 million locally funded job creation program.
Her vision has led to the development of the Innovation District to cultivate an entrepreneurial hub, the creation of TIF districts to incentivize development and the master plan for development surrounding Scissortail Park. Her work to attract and locate the Omni Hotel next to our new convention center is quickly becoming an economic development magnet for downtown Oklahoma City.
I know that Cathy counts the Homeland grocery store as one of her most impactful contributions. Committed to equitable economic opportunities and quality of life across Oklahoma City, the absence of a full-service grocery store in northeast Oklahoma City was a puzzle Cathy was determined to solve. She organized complex financing, incentives and land deals requiring years of patience and perseverance and I look forward to celebrating the store’s opening this fall.
Dean A. McGee was passionate about developing downtown as a gathering place for future generations. Cathy O’Connor shares that passion and has the courage to take risks, the tenacity to see even the most challenging, complex projects to the finish line and the awareness that it takes many people to shape the direction and growth of our city. Her work with smaller developers and those new to residential or commercial development is testament to her willingness to invest her time and expertise to mentor the next generation of those who will continue shaping our beloved city.