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Boom town: City lures big brands. Name retailers continue to make Owasso home.

October 13, 2014 Tulsa World: staff writer Rhett Morgan. Boom town: City lures big brands. Name retailers continue to make Owasso home.

OWASSO — The undefeated high school football team isn’t the only group in Owasso on a roll.

 So are the city’s economic developers.

 Lured by financial catnip, four national retailers have either opened or announced their arrival to Owasso or its school district in the past year. Last week, the streak continued with sporting goods giant Academy Sports and Outdoors.

The city council on Tuesday approved an $600,000 economic development incentive agreement that is expected to bring Academy to Owasso by the fall of 2015. The 62,000-square-foot store, to be located on North Garnett Road at East 19th Street, is projected to generate $20 million in annual sales, said Chelsea Levo, the city’s economic development director.

“Academy will be a huge benefit to the funnel-area customers,” Levo told the council on Tuesday. “… What’s very exciting is that it fills a gap in Owasso’s retail community.”

The pact is among Owasso Investment Partners LLC, the city of Owasso and the Owasso Public Works Authority. It calls for the authority to pay OIP, the developer, a maximum of $600,000 from sales tax generated from the store. It also allows OIP to move a traffic light, currently located south of the property and in front of First Bank of Owasso, to 19th Street and Garnett Road and construct modifications at that intersection.

The deal is contingent upon OIP closing on the property by Dec. 31.

“I’ve always been a fan of these types of arrangements,” City Councilor Chris Kelley said at Tuesday night’s meeting. “This is a win-win situation for Owasso filling a gap. It’s also a good deal for the citizens. We’re essentially paying back with tax dollars we didn’t already have in the first place without Academy coming.”

Levo touts several reasons for Owasso’s standing out as a business destination, including a high quality of life, solid infrastructure, numerous shopping selections and attractive housing options.

“We are creating wealth within the Tulsa region,” she said last week in a text response to the newspaper. “That’s the kind of momentum which will attract the type of businesses to the area that will succeed and contribute to that wealth. We recognize that we are on a roll and need to be respectful of that growth and plan according.”

The Academy pact is similar to economic carrots dangled by Owasso in the recent past.

In July, the Public Works Authority extended a $150,000 incentive to Sprouts Farmer’s Market, which is scheduled to open next spring near the corner of 96th Street North and 129th East Avenue. Late last year, the city chipped in $500,000 through the Owasso Economic Development Authority to Macy’s, which is building a 1.3 million-square-foot distribution center in the Owasso School District just west of the city on 76th Street North.

The city also landed Sam’s Club, which opened in October 2013, with help from a construction agreement. The pact allowed for Sam’s to pay for infrastructure upgrades (more than $5 million) in exchange for being reimbursed from sales-tax revenue generated at the site.

Other Owasso businesses that have recently opened or are under construction include Raising Cane’s, Whataburger, Bricktown Brewery and Hideaway Pizza. The city announced Tuesday that the Bricktown Brewery, which opened in late July, already has surpassed $1 million in sales.

On Tuesday’s city council agenda, no reference was made to Academy or an incentive, only to a “development agreement.”

“I’m just glad we don’t have to keep it secret, anymore,” Councilor Bill Bush said at the meeting.

He and several other councilors went on to thank Levo and others involved in the deal.

“These guys come in and the sky’s the limit to them, and we tell them, ‘No, there is a limit and it’s not the sky,’” Bush said. “Because Owasso is a place where people want to come to, we’ve got more bargaining power than a lot of municipalities around the Tulsa area. So, they quickly realize that, OK, it’s not going to be as easy as we thought.”

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