As the state’s tallest skyscraper, completed in 2012, the 50-story Devon Energy Center became the latest chapter in Oklahoma City’s economic renaissance thanks largely to a unique series of public/private partnerships known as "MAPS."
While still largely energy driven, Oklahoma City’s economy has diversified in the last few years, now including biosciences, healthcare and aerospace. This year the city has enjoyed a lower unemployment rate versus the national rate for several years following the recent recession. And the rest of the world has taken notice.
Forbes magazine, among others, has ranked Oklahoma City as one of the “most livable cities,” and in 2008 dubbed it “America’s most recession-proof city” thanks to its burgeoning healthcare, aerospace and higher education industries.
To say that downtown Oklahoma City has changed since the early 1990s would be an understatement. Much of the success can be pinned on the city’s extraordinary success in raising the public money needed to generate a much-needed urban renaissance. Most of the major development is attributed to MAPS, or Metropolitan Area Projects, a series of publicly funded capital improvement programs to build and upgrade sports, recreation, entertainment, cultural and convention facilities. MAPS was launched in December 1993, when Oklahoma City voters approved a temporary one-cent sales tax. By the time it expired in 1999, the city had collected $350 million.
The result was a spate of downtown projects, the most visible being a new 15,000-seat home for the local minor league baseball team, the Triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers. It was soon followed by the Bricktown Canal, a new downtown library, a rebuilt music hall and a new arena. In summer 2008, the arena began playing host to the city’s new National Basketball Association team, the Oklahoma City Thunder.