Here is Santa Claus? North Pole toy maker plans to go state

Newmark Grubb Levy Strange Beffort Investments CEO Mark Beffort, right, gives Santa a tour of the downtown Oklahoma City offices on Thursday. (Photo by Brent Fuchs)

OKLAHOMA CITY – Iconic toy maker could move to Oklahoma.

Santa is considering the Sooner State as a new site for his workshop, according to a source familiar with the matter. He evaluates sites in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

The leaders of the two cities could neither confirm nor deny whether they had heard from Claus, but they did have a list of reasons – and they double-check it – why he should consider their regions.

Claus could receive financial assistance to move his jobs to the heart of the country through the state’s Quality Employment Program or the Oklahoma City Strategic Investment Program.

The state program provides cash payments to businesses that create jobs by opening new operations or expanding existing ones. Typically, these grants are worth about 5 percent of total payroll for eligible jobs. The Oklahoma City program is similar and is funded by limited general obligation tax bonds.

Oklahoma City Economic Development Project Manager Brent Bryant said there were a few qualifying points that Claus should stick to.

“First of all, I would ask him what kind of main jobs does he plan to create and how much those jobs will pay,” said Bryant. “And we would like to know what other cities he is considering.”

Bryant said if Claus took his entire workforce with him – assuming the elves have special training that cannot be easily replicated in Oklahoma – the program’s new jobs clause would be largely questionable.

City leaders seek out goods or services that attract income from other areas to Oklahoma City and distribute them throughout the economy through workers’ paychecks. The legendary philanthropy and gifts of Claus suggest that there isn’t much income to support the elves’ paychecks, let alone the possibility that the entire crew was volunteer work.

“But let’s say it creates primary jobs – our minimum is 50 new jobs,” said Bryant. “The next point to consider is what they pay. Our policy calls for paying at least 80% of the average Oklahoma City MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) salary, which was around $ 42,000 the last time I looked.

Even though Claus might not qualify for the Strategic Investment Program, he could move to a Tax Increase Funding District, or TIF, which funds infrastructure improvements ahead of expected increases in tax revenue.

Greater Oklahoma City Chamber president and CEO Roy Williams said he believed the city’s recruiting efforts would reach the public domain, with people writing letters to the Jolly Old Elf.

“It’s not just a corporate headquarters, but we’re talking about a manufacturer and a global distributor,” Williams said. “When you look at what it would take to get it, this is the first head office in the world with the highest brand identification. “

But like any move from a manufacturing company’s headquarters, Tulsa is also vying for the workshop and elf workforce, said Andrew Ralston, who oversees Santa’s recruiting efforts for the bedroom. northeast metro trade.

Ralston said Tulsa can offer elven workforce training programs through the state and city career tech programs. The city can also create a neighborhood for toy innovation, and there is plenty of room outside the metro for reindeer herding.

The recent Vision Tulsa sales tax measure helps fund the Peoria Mohawk industrial site, which can be offered to Claus for a nominal fee.

“It’s over 100 acres and located near arterial roads near Highway 244,” said Ralston. “It’s in the middle of a very populated workforce. All the infrastructure will be on site, ready to be built.

CBRE | Oklahoma industrial broker David Glasgow, who works in Tulsa, said there was plenty of space available for Claus to relocate. He said the city has more manufacturing space than Oklahoma City, which has a lot of distribution space.

He said there was land available for a new location, but there could be concerns for an upcoming user if Claus were to move. He said the sales contract should include something about what would happen to the building if Claus moved again, as it would likely be a highly specialized space.

But there’s also no shortage of industrial space in Oklahoma City, said Kris Davis, industrial broker at Newmark Grubb Levy Strange Beffort. He said some buildings in Will Rogers Business Park don’t have a lot of office space.

“Elves should use their iPads,” he said.

Claus was spotted downtown on Thursday looking at offices with Newmark’s investment CEO Mark Beffort.

Davis said that if Claus wanted to sign a long-term lease he would get a better deal on a 151,200 square foot building at 4680 NW Third St. If Claus needs rail space, this market area is tight, he said. Davis said.

“Logistics in Oklahoma City are much better,” he said. “With Interstate 35, I-44 and I-40 intersecting in the area, access to downtown Oklahoma City is better than Tulsa. He will find himself a lot to roam Oklahoma City. “

One challenge that could come with the move to Oklahoma City is housing. Price Edwards & Co.’s multi-family broker, David Dirkschneider, said executive-level elves will find apartments downtown, with units available at The Lift, The Metropolitan and The Edge.

But with jobs at the manufacturing level, the elves could likely qualify for affordable housing, and there is nothing available in this industry. The Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency has stopped putting people on its waiting list due to a lack of affordable housing available.

This could provide a development opportunity, Dirkschneider said.

“There is certainly a huge need for this,” he said.

The OHFA offers a 9 percent tax credit for affordable housing developments, which developers struggle to qualify for.

“They turn down more projects than they approve,” he said.

But the OHFA also offers a tax credit of 4%, which is easier to collect. Dirkschneider said there was an abundance of money available for these projects.

Ralston and Williams said Santa’s Workshop – like any corporate headquarters – will also include side businesses. Ralston said some side businesses will be sugarcane and gingerbread manufacturers and bell distributors.

Oklahoma City University economist Jonathan Willner said Claus would definitely be a magnet for nearby development – which company wouldn’t want to be associated with one of the world’s most beloved brands ? And the lack of impact on the Elven payroll would be more than offset by tourism dollars, he said.

“People would be really interested in seeing an elf making toys, and definitely catching Santa Claus on the streets in the summer would be a big draw,” he said.

Each city can also boast of being close to a distributor, like the FedEx and UPS hubs in Oklahoma City. Ralston pointed out that Macy’s distribution center is in Tulsa.

“For all the orders that Santa Claus receives, Macy’s online order fulfillment center can take over,” he said. “As we all know, Santa and Macy’s have a great relationship.”

The State Chamber could not confirm whether Claus is moving to Oklahoma, but it would certainly help recruit him, said Jonathan Buxton, senior vice president of government affairs. He said St. Nick would get several benefits if he moved to Oklahoma, including low taxes, high-quality engineers to help build toys, and an updated workers’ compensation system.

“Additionally, Santa could take advantage of the aerospace engineering tax credits to help find elves who know how to operate the sleigh and keep Rudolph and the rest of the reindeer in the sky all night,” said Buxton.

Williams said he plans to call Claus on Tuesday – he assumes he’ll take a nap on Monday – and give him more information about the city. He said he was going to help Claus connect Hobby Lobby and the Green family. He’s also going to tell Claus about the millennials moving to town as they could be important to his workforce.

“I think millennials would find this profession very exciting,” said Williams. “They love to make a difference in the world, and being a part of it would make a difference in the world.”

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