Meet 2019 Chamber Chair Percy Kirk
Chamber Chair Percy Kirk, Cox Communications, recently sat down with members of the Chamber's communications team to discuss the challenges and opportunities he sees on the horizon and what he hopes to bring to his role.
The POINT!: How many years have you been involved with the Chamber, and how has that time shaped how you view the region?
Percy Kirk: I’ve been involved with the Chamber since I moved to the OKC metro in 2009. As I began working in this city and getting to know the people here, it was easily apparent that being active with the Chamber was a must. This Chamber has a long, strong history of creating an environment where businesses can prosper. The Chamber does this by not only bringing businesses together for the greater good but also connecting businesses with the government and non-profit sector to create programs and collaborations that lift the entire community up. While OKC gets a lot of accolades for its progress, our Chamber does not rest on its laurels, either. Each year the Chamber is actively searching out best practices through programs like our InterCity Visits where we can learn from other communities on how to continually work to make ours stronger. Through my involvement with this Chamber, I have seen firsthand the innovative, collaborative culture in this metro area.
How does Oklahoma City compare to the other communities in which you’ve worked?
The biggest differentiator for Oklahoma City is how the community works together to get things done. No matter what sector you represent – whether you are a city manager, a nurse, a teacher, a stay-at-home parent, a banker – you are invited to engage in making sure this community progresses. Because of the collaborative culture I mentioned, this Oklahoma Standard as we call it, every sector is represented and at the table. It is a best practice known by leaders in other parts of the country, some of whom come to OKC to learn about how we do this so they can try to replicate it. I’ve been in other communities that are fine communities, but they don’t have the same cooperation as I have noticed here. It is great to see how the elected leaders work with the philanthropic and business community for the benefit of the city.
So how would you describe the differences between our Chamber and similar organizations in other cities?
One of the differentiators of our Chamber is that it is not solely focused on initiatives that are directly and specifically economic development. We also engage with programs and initiatives that are tied to the success of our community as a whole, which influences economic development. As an example, our Chamber has direct responsibility for the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Further, we will engage with social issues that have serious implications for economic development if we don’t get them right. An example of this is our work on criminal justice reform. Our Chamber is actually larger than the chambers in Denver or Dallas because of this expanded approach to ensure a top-notch community for our businesses to grow.
Why is it important that the business community stay engaged in the growth and the future development of Oklahoma City and the region?
If you aren’t moving forward you decline and move backward. This community is used to winning and accomplishing what we set out to do and, as a result, we strive to do more and take on bigger challenges. If we slow down, we could lose momentum. Further, disengagement could lead to apathy which could really wreak havoc on this culture of collaboration. We’ve seen this happen in other parts of the country where groups start spending all of their energy fighting about priorities as opposed to figuring out how to work together to solve issues. We have to proactively stay engaged to ensure this doesn’t happen here.
What do you think is the biggest opportunity in front of the Chamber right now?
First of all, we have so many projects in progress— building the convention center, finishing the park, reforming the criminal justice system and developing the Innovation District. This is truly enviable progress, but it is a lot. We must work together to execute on all of these things in front of us. Second, we are currently working with Mayor Holt as he is soliciting ideas for MAPS 4 and how that program will play out. MAPS has been instrumental to our city’s progress and we’ll need all hands on deck to make sure this next round has the right focus and that we are doing what we can to get the community excited about voting in favor of it.
On the flip side of that, what do you think is the Chamber’s biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge is we cannot take all of our progress and success for granted. If we do, we lose the momentum that exists today. What do you hope to bring to your role? I just want to do my part to keep things moving forward, as quick as we can!