Earlier this month, Norman's largest private employer, Johnson Controls, announced a 400,000 square foot expansion that could mean an additional 300 jobs for their local plant.

It's a vote of confidence in Oklahoma and in Norman, thanks to the hardworking Johnson Controls employees in our community who are daily advocates for expanding manufacturing in Norman, as well as local organizations like the Norman Economic Development Coalition and Chamber of Commerce. Any job growth is good, but these kinds of jobs -- including 100 high-wage jobs -- are particularly valuable: the average annual compensation for a manufacturing employee in our state is about 20 percent higher than other sectors at $65,265.

As the City of Norman grapples with a general budget that's continuing to decline in the face of increased needs -- from the transition of the Public Safety Sales Tax to Norman Forward to CART transportation -- job growth is becoming even more important. Ensuring these new employees live and shop in Norman will be key to maximizing the expansion's value to our community.

Norman has a tremendous amount of positive things going for it when it comes to attracting and retaining people: a stellar school system, new quality of life improvements, the presence of the University of Oklahoma, community events like Norman Music Festival and the Medieval Fair. While there are quite a few challenges facing our city moving forward, including decisions on how and where to grow, it is important to take a step back from time-to-time and appreciate our community.

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