By Brent Kisling, Executive Director, Enid Regional Development Alliance
Let’s suppose for a moment that you were about to purchase your first home. You found the perfect house that you intend to live in for the rest of your life.
But like most new home buyers, you don’t have enough cash to purchase the home so you start shopping around to find a bank to loan you the money. Each bank carefully competes to get your business. Some offer you a 5% interest rate and others offer you less. Let’s suppose that after careful consideration you decide to go with the bank that offers you a 3% fixed rate loan for 10 years. You move out of your apartment and start living your life in this new home.
Now let’s suppose that after a few years, even though you have kept your side of the bargain and paid your loan payment every month, that the bank sends you a notice that they are changing your interest rate to 5%. You would be livid and you would never do business with that bank ever again…right?
Oklahoma is attempting to do the same thing right now with the wind industry.
About 15 years ago we made a conscious decision to diversify our economy and “compete” with other states by incentivizing the wind industry to come to our state. It worked! But, except for college football, we aren’t used to being this successful at something. We went from almost zero wind investment to over $9 billion.
Now our State Legislature is saying that since we already have their investment and they can’t really move the wind farms elsewhere, let’s change the rules and cap the incentive each year that we promised them. Just like the bank changing the rules on your loan, if we go through with this, we will never be able to make a promise to a company ever again…in the wind industry…or any other.
In Garfield County, the wind industry has been revolutionary for us.
We have had $500 million in investment in our county alone. These farms have a 20 year contract to operate in our area. Over that 20 year span, these wind farm owners will pay out approximately $100 million in property taxes (about half of which goes to K-12 public schools). They will also pay about $4.8 million per year in landowner payments. This is the equivalent of a new employer hiring 133 people at our county average wage and then promising to invest in that payroll every year for 20 years. We would fall all over ourselves to see an investment like that, but instead, we are considering changing the rules mid-game.
Oklahoma now has the 3rd most installed wind energy capacity in the country and it is becoming a mature industry in our state. Enid and other communities are now starting to work with manufacturing facilities that want to be close to the farms in our area. Please Oklahoma, keep your promises so they will continue to want to do business with us.