Cathy O’Connor: A Woman on a Mission

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The Crystal Bridge at the Myriad Gardens in OKC
Devon Tower in downtown OKC
The Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Cathy O'Connor

After ­­­­an almost 30 year career in city government, many close to Catherine O’Connor were surprised to hear she left her post as an Assistant City Manager for the City of Oklahoma City. However, it came as no surprise that she did not steer far away from helping Oklahoma City grow.

Starting her career with the City as a student at the University of Oklahoma, O’Connor knew she wanted a career in the public sector because of her strong desire to make a difference in people’s lives. Over the next 30 years, O’Connor held a variety of positions for the City including Finance Director, Budget Director and Business Manager for the Oklahoma City Fire Department, before becoming an Assistant City Manger in 2001.

“I was extremely fortunate to have begun my career while still an undergraduate,” O’Connor said. “Being able to work for the City while finishing my degree gave me the experience I needed to get on the career path that brought me to where I am today.”

In 2011, O’Connor left the City to head a newly formed organization, the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City. As President of the Alliance, O’Connor also oversees six public entities, including the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority, to ensure public assistance for organizations looking to invest in Oklahoma City.

“The cooperative structure of the Alliance allows companies and developers the ability to meet with a single point of contact when getting help within the public sector,” O’Connor said. “We offer a one-stop-shop for those wanting to invest in our city.”

Throughout her career with the City of Oklahoma City, O’Connor was involved with many aspects of the continuing redevelopment and transformation of Oklahoma City.

“Bass Pro Shops was the first economic development project I worked extensively on,” O’Connor said. “It has been truly amazing to see the development of Oklahoma City over the past few years. The transformation of the downtown area is incredible to see, and I’m just thankful to be a part of it.”

As well as helping bring Bass Pro Shops to Oklahoma City, O’Connor also worked on other projects during her tenture with the City, such as securing the Dell campus in southwest Oklahoma City and assisting in the revitalization of the Skirvin Hilton Hotel.

“It was a hectic time, as the Dell and Skirvin developments overlapped during part of both projects,” O’Connor said. “However, it felt good to see them both completed, especially since they both have such a large presence now in Oklahoma City.”

Originally, Dell wanted to bring only 150 jobs to Oklahoma City and buy an old Walmart as office space. After talks with the city, Dell decided to build the current campus, which now holds around 2100 employees. The campus sits on what used to be a city landfill.

“There were definitely difficulties throughout construction, since the site was previously a landfill,” O’Connor said. “But those challenges were of course taken care of, and now the property is thriving. Being able to increase the amount of jobs Dell brought here was a huge accomplishment for the city.”

More recently, O’Connor has had the opportunity to work on economic development projects, such as the Devon tower.

“When talking about projects I’ve worked on, I have to mention the Devon tower,” O’Connor said. “It has changed the perception of downtown greater than any other economic development project to date. The tower stands over the entire city.”

With construction beginning in late 2009, the Devon tower is in the final stages of construction, with some employees having already made the move to the new office space.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen Oklahoma City’s renaissance firsthand,” O’Connor said. “Oklahoma City has gone through an amazing transformation, and I look forward to continuing my involvement in this ever-changing city through my work with the Alliance.”





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