Companies Week In Review, June 22

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Regents create new entity to run OU Medical Systems

OU Medical Systems doesn’t need outside partners to run the hospital system. After two breakups, university regents chose themselves. University regents voted unanimously Aug. 11 on an affiliation agreement with a newly formed nonprofit, OU Medicine Inc., to take control of the hospital and clinic systems.

Wind energy industry expected to generate continued expansion

Wind farms will continue to pop up across the Plains, creating jobs for Oklahomans and potentially pushing down electricity prices. Oklahoma’s utilities announced 2,010 megawatts of new wind farms and solar power projects in recent weeks, in part due to falling installation costs.

Banks bring in biometrics, withdraw passwords

Oklahoma bankers said they expect fast adaptation of biometrics. Biometrics is the science of confirming a person’s identity based on persistent physical or behavioral traits such as handwriting or the unique sound wave patterns in a voice.

Mental health appropriations could diminish by 23 pct.

If the Legislature doesn’t reconvene to find new revenue, about one-quarter of the state’s mental health appropriations will disappear, and providers said that would mean several services would disappear as well. Senate Bill 845, which has been declared unconstitutional by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, appropriated $70 million to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, accounting for 23 percent of the department’s total state money.

Labor Department seeks to simplify occupational licensing

Oklahoma Department of Labor officials are developing plans to help lawmakers be more efficient while creating new occupational licenses and to help industry members be more efficient at applying for them. Labor Commissioner Melissa McLawhorn Houston released the plans on Aug. 14.

Airbnb to send hotel taxes to OKC

The home-sharing company Airbnb is going to start remitting hotel taxes to Oklahoma City in September, officials said. City Treasurer Bob Ponkilla said the California-based business surprised city officials with an offer to help collect the 5.5-percent tax due for each rental arranged through its online portal. Hotel operators said the change will help bring market forces back into balance, although Airbnb was already directing its hosts to remit taxes anyway.

OKC approves $45 million First National investment

The Oklahoma City Council approved without discussion a $45 million public investment in the redevelopment of the long-vacant First National Center downtown. Local developers Gary Brooks and Charlie Nicholas bought the 1-million-square-foot former bank and office building for $23 million in January with plans to redevelop it as mixed-use residential and business space with parking.

Scientists to search for underground faults from 400 feet high

State and federal scientists are flying 400 feet high, searching for faults deep underground. A specially equipped plane will zoom around several Oklahoma earthquake hot spots for the next two months, taking high-resolution images. The project could help scientists with the Oklahoma Geological Survey and the U.S. Geological Survey better understand what drives the state’s triggered temblor phenomenon.

Fallin supports special session to fix budget woes

It’s unclear whether Gov. Mary Fallin will call a special legislative session or attempt to cajole the Legislature into doing so, but she publicly announced that she believes that would be the state’s best option. Her office issued a news release in which she is quoted as saying that the agencies that were meant to benefit from the new cigarette fee’s revenue cannot operate now that the measure has been declared unconstitutional.

State general revenue matches estimates

General Revenue Fund collections in July were up 10.7 percent for the first month of the fiscal year. GRF collections in July totaled $411.4 million, up $39.8 million or nearly 11 percent from $371.6 million for July 2016, according to a report from the Office of Management and Enterprise Service.

OU adds turnkey tailgating to football premium options

The University of Oklahoma has signed a multi-year contract with Alabama-based Tailgate Guys. The company specializes in tailgating. Tailgate Guys owns its equipment and creates a turnkey tailgate event for people. People who use its services can get a tent, television, fan, food, and other amenities, all sold in packages.

Bennett charts course for a long-lasting SandRidge Energy

James Bennett said he wants to build an oil and gas drilling company that outlasts his lifetime. Part of the SandRidge Energy Inc. CEO’s vision is to create a corporate culture that respects worker dignity and that values transparency and hard work, he said.

Innovator of the Year

Mahmoud A. Khaimi walked off the stage at The Journal Record’s Innovator of the Year event as this year’s overall award winner. Khaimi, an ophthalmologist and clinical associate professor at the Dean A. McGee Eye Institute, is recognized for developing a minimally invasive glaucoma surgery called ab-interno canaloplasty.

OKC schools consider lawsuit over lack of funding

Oklahoma City Public Schools announced its intention to investigate its options to enact some change at the Legislature, which officials said will likely include litigation. School Board Chairman Mark Mann and Superintendent Aurora Lora decried lawmakers’ continued cuts to education and continued failure to pass an education budget before April 1, which is technically required under state law.

Tulsa seeks to loosen restrictions for political activity

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum is trying to make good on his campaign promise to firefighters to loosen up restrictions on their political activity in the city. The City Council agreed to schedule a special election Nov. 14 to allow firefighters and other municipal employees to attend and participate in council meetings like any other resident.

25,000 coming to OKC for National Baptist Convention

In the summer of 2018, the city will host a group whose size is unlike any that area professionals have seen. The National Baptist Convention’s 113th annual Congress of Christian Education is bringing its event to the metro from June 18 to June 22. More than 25,000 people will come to the city for the congress.

Shop class

Santa Fe South High School students never shopped at Montgomery Ward stores. The retailer closed its locations in 2001. But they get to go to school where the store was once housed. Architect Don Beck and his team worked with Miller Tippens Construction to turn the Plaza Mayor’s Montgomery Ward space into the charter high school.

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