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Norman Economic Development Coalition President Listed Among North America’s Top 50 Economic Development Professionals

Norman Economic Development Coalition President Listed Among North America’s Top 50 Economic Development Professionals

International economic development agency  Consultant Connect has named Norman Economic Development Coalition (NEDC) President and Chief Executive Lawrence McKinney one of North America’s Top 50 Economic Developers.    

The top 50 list is produced annually by Consultant Connect to recognize North America’s most accomplished economic development professionals.  The organization, which focuses on connecting economic developers with site consultants, compiles its list of honorees based on nominations by their peers in both the economic development and site location consulting industries.

Those included on the list reflect outstanding utilization of best practices, innovative initiatives, and success in building the communities they serve.

“The Consultant Connect team looks forward to releasing the Top 50 list every year because we believe that the work of economic developers is not only transformative to communities, but it is deeper than that,” said Carla Sones, president of Consultant Connect. “Each year, jobs are created that impact individuals and their families. We are truly honored to provide a platform for North America’s top economic developers to be recognized for their passionate commitment to the communities they serve.”

As president of the coalition, McKinney has dramatically repositioned NEDC locally in community development, and nationally, as an organization seeking excellence, said Patrick Grace, CEO of Oklahoma Electric Cooperative and Chairman of the NEDC Board of Directors. 

“This recognition by an international firm and Lawrence’s peers reconfirms what our search committee already knew,” Grace said. “It also reinforces that Lawrence, and the team he is building, are in the right community, on the right track, at the right time.”

Although McKinney has spent nearly four decades in the economic development field, he has worked at the Norman Coalition for just the past two years. Before being named NEDC president in 2021, he was Chief Operating Officer for a national strategic consulting firm and a principal and founder of Economic Strategy Professionals, LLC with his wife, Elizabeth. 

“I’m truly honored, and humbled to be recognized among my peers in this way,” McKinney said. “The successes we’ve had, and will continue to have, is due to unwavering focus and commitment from our coalition’s board of directors, and a small but talented staff. We are also grateful for our collaborative relationships with the City of Norman, Cleveland County, and the University of Oklahoma. Last but certainly not least, I’m grateful for our Sooner Centurion private sector investors.”

The McKinneys moved to Norman from their home in Florida in February  2021 and immediately began to assess the community and the NEDC.  Utilizing their consulting practice methodology, Elizabeth McKinney began interviewing community stakeholders, while Lawrence McKinney began assessing the NEDC’s internal and external operations as well as its strategic goals.

An early decision was to relocate the NEDC business incubator, Startup 405, from the University of Oklahoma’s south campus to NEDC’s new headquarters in the Commerce Building, 424 West Main St. The NEDC leased remaining space to the Norman Chamber of Commerce and Visit Norman.

Soon after, the NEDC announced the location of Advanced Call Center Technologies as the newest tenant in the Norman Business Park, creating up to 770 jobs with starting salaries above Norman’s per capita income, with good benefits as well as profit sharing.  Almost simultaneously, based on results from Elizabeth McKinney’s interviews, President McKinney recommended a new business model for NEDC. Under the new plan, NEDC greatly expanded the business community investment in economic development by transforming the Sooner Centurion Committee of the

Norman Chamber of Commerce into a stand-alone countywide Sooner Centurion Economic Development Council.

In the third quarter of 2022, NEDC secured $2 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars from the Norman City Council and the Cleveland County Commission. It dedicated those funds to purchasing and renovating a larger space for its Start-up 405 incubator, the only one in Cleveland County certified by the state. In March of 2023, the coalition purchased the Copelin’s Office Center Building, directly across from the Commerce Building on W Main St.  As the two anchors of the entrance to downtown, NEDC will maximize this investment opportunity to elevate downtown’s image.

In the fourth quarter of 2022, the State of Oklahoma awarded $20 million to NEDC, in partnership with Norman Public Schools, Moore Norman
Technology Center, and the University of Oklahoma to build the Oklahoma Aviation Academy at Max Westheimer Airport, the state’s first aviation high school.

About Consultant Connect

Consultant Connect works to bridge the gap between leading economic developers and site location consultants through exclusive networking events, educational services, and leadership development. Consultant Connect not only gives economic developers an inside look into the world of site selection – it gives them the applicable information necessary to propel their careers and communities forward. For more information, please visit

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