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Oklahoma Department of Commerce

Connect Conference & Workshop

2018 Presentations Archive

Thank you to everyone who attended and presented at Connect 2018!

Presentations are now available for download in PDF format. 

Tax Increment Financing (TIF)
9:10 – 10:40 AM
Presenters: Leslie Batchelor, J. Brent Clark, Richard Johnson and Brent Kisling
TIFs are one of many important tools for promoting economic development in your community. Hear success stories and learn how to create effective TIF districts with experts from across Oklahoma.

Connect 2018 Tax Increment Financing – Leslie Batchelor
Connect 2018 Tax Increment Financing – Richard Johnson

Oklahoma Department of Commerce Agency & Programs Overview
11:00 AM – 12:15 PM
Presenters: Jon Chiappe, James Johnson, Martin Roberts and Marshall Vogts
An overview of the mission and programs of the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. This session is a replacement for Cornell Wesley’s scheduled presentation.

Connect 2018 Oklahoma Department of Commerce Overview


Federal Opportunity Zones in Oklahoma
12:30 – 1:20 PM
Presenter: Cheryl Vinall Denney
Learn about the newly designated federal opportunity zones in Oklahoma. Cheryl Vinall Denney specializes in incentives, economic development law, community development finance, and structuring private equity transactions to qualify for tax incentives.

Connect 2018 Federal Opportunity Zones in Oklahoma – Cheryl Vinall Denney and the Changing World of Business Location
1:30 – 2:45 PM | Room 1
Presenters: Ron Bertasi, Michael Cleary and Jason Elliott developer GIS WebTech will help your community compete and win by using the analytical tools of the Recruit platform. Discover the best tools for highlighting your community’s assets and learn about the newest features of

Connect 2018 and the Changing World of Business Location – Oklahoma Department of Commerce
Connect 2018 and the Changing World of Business Location – GIS WebTech

Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Districts – Creating Support within Your Community
1:30 – 2:45 PM | Room 2
Presenter: Brent Bryant, Butch Freeman and Cathy O’Connor
Learn how Oklahoma City created support for their TIF districts and how you can do the same in your community. Brent Bryant will share his experiences in the Oklahoma City Manager’s office where he manages 16 TIF districts and the OKC Strategic Investment Program.

Connect 2018 TIFs Creating Support Within Your Community – Oklahoma City

Understanding the Main Street Retail Analysis Report
3:00 – 4:30 PM | Room 1
Presenters: Chelsea McConnell, Buffy Hughes, Jeremy Zeller and Lesli Crofford
Oklahoma Main Street is a program that helps in redeveloping the heart of your city…the downtown. This session will teach you more about the value of Main Street through photos and success stories, including 2018 Community of the Year Ponca City! Additionally, learn about the Retail Analysis Report available from Commerce’s Research Team.

Connect 2018 Understanding the Main Street Retail Analysis Report – Buffy Hughes
Connect 2018 Understanding the Main Street Retail Analysis Report – Chelsea McConnell
Connect 2018 Understanding the Main Street Retail Analysis Report – Example Analysis

Cultural Planning for Rural Communities
3:00 – 4:30 PM | Room 2
Presenter: Christina Beatty
Discover and learn about cultural planning through the Cultural District Initiative, a program where communities identify and leverage their arts and cultural assets for community and economic development planning. The Arts Council offers project based grant opportunities supporting arts education, festivals, performances and exhibitions at the local community level.

Connect 2018 Cultural Planning for Rural Communities – Christina Beatty


Speakers & Panelists

Leslie V. Batchelor, President, Center for Economic Development Law
Leslie represents communities across Oklahoma in their development efforts. She focuses on public-private partnerships, tax increment financing, and other redevelopment strategies. She serves as General Counsel to the Oklahoma City Housing Authority, City Attorney for the City of The Village, Associate General Counsel to the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority, and development counsel to several local municipalities and authorities, including Carlton Landing, Edmond, and Tulsa.

Christina Beatty, Community Arts Director, Oklahoma Arts Council
Christina oversees the Community Arts Grants programs, the Cultural District Initiative, the Performing Artist Roster, and the ONEAL (Oklahoma’s New and Emerging Arts Leaders) Network. In Chicago, she worked for the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, the Black Metropolis National Heritage Area campaign, the Great Migration Centennial campaign and the University of Chicago’s Arts in Public Life initiative.

Ron Bertasi, CEO, GIS WebTech
Ron has served in business leadership positions for more than 20 years. His position as CEO of GISWebTech is his second of a GIS technology business and his sixth time serving as a chief executive. Ron was originally a geologist and loves the outdoors. He holds an MBA from Dartmouth, an MS from UCLA and a BA from Colgate.

Brent Bryant, Economic Development Program Manager, City of Oklahoma City
Brent has been in the City Manager’s Office since July 2007. He started his professional career with the City in 1991 as an Internal Auditor. His tenure includes stints in the Auditor’s Office, Fire Department, Office of Management and Budget, and Finance Administration. He is currently responsible for the City’s 16 TIF districts with budgets totaling over $993 million and management of the City’s $135 million Strategic Investment Program.

J. Brent Clark, Attorney
J. Brent Clark is a native of Holdenville, Oklahoma. He graduated with General Honors and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Oklahoma and from the OU Law School. For the past 35 years, he has specialized in public finance, including tax-exempt bonds and loans, agency loans, bank loans and Tax Increment Financing. Recently, he has focused on the new federal Opportunity Zone provisions.

Michael Cleary, Chief Operating Officer, GIS WebTech
Michael has over 20 years of experience in technology and marketing, including serving as President of a GIS technology business providing mobile solutions to the energy industry. Michael is a US history buff, and as his boss Ron learned the hard way, you really don’t want to bet against him in baseball trivia. Michael holds a BS from the University of Connecticut and an MBA from Sacred Heart University.

Cheryl Vinall Denney, Attorney and Shareholder, McAfee & Taft
Cheryl’s practice concerns advising and representing public and private companies in all phases of their business existence. This includes the formation and structuring of new companies and joint ventures, negotiation of credit agreements and other business contracts, asset acquisitions, private equity investments, mergers, acquisitions and other forms of business combinations and reorganizations, divestitures and dissolutions.

Jason Elliott, Chief Technology Officer, GIS WebTech
Jason is GIS WebTech’s founder. In addition to overseeing all software development, Jason also acts as the company’s chief technology visionary. A serial entrepreneur, Jason has developed numerous GIS technology products over the years across markets as diverse as national security, pipeline services and economic development. As Jason likes to say, his hobbies are…he has no hobbies. Jason studied physics at the University of Alabama.

Forrest “Butch” Freeman, Jr., Oklahoma County Treasurer
Butch has been the Oklahoma County Treasurer since December 1993. He is a retired Air Force Colonel with over 23 years of professional military experience. His last Air Force assignment was as Comptroller for Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City where he was responsible for budgeting and accounting of $4 billion in annually appropriated funds. Following his retirement from the Air Force in June 1989, he became the Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for Data Monitor Systems, Inc. located in Midwest City.

Buffy Hughes, Main Street Director for the State of Oklahoma
Buffy holds a degree in Interior Design from the University of Central Oklahoma, and for 16 years was the Chief Interior Designer for the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, State Parks Division. For 12 years Buffy served as adjunct faculty for the Interior Design program at the University of Central Oklahoma where she taught courses in Rendering, Lighting, Materials, but primarily focusing on Art, Architecture, and Design History.

Richard D. Johnson, Associate, McAfee & Taft
Rich is a transactional and taxation attorney who focuses on business acquisitions and financing, tax credit financing, probate and estate administration, ad valorem taxation, tax litigation, and general corporate governance and operations. Rich advises clients on structuring economic development projects to qualify for state and federal tax incentives, such as New Markets Tax Credits (NMTCs), historic rehabilitation tax credits and tax increment financing (TIF) districts.

Brent Kisling, Executive Director, Enid Regional Development Alliance
Brent was raised on a farm and ranch in rural northwest Oklahoma and graduated from Oklahoma State University with a B.S. in Agribusiness. In March of 2009, Brent was named as the Executive Director of the Enid Regional Development Alliance. The mission of the Alliance is to ensure quality job growth through the expansion and retention of existing businesses and the recruitment of new industry to Enid and Northwest Oklahoma.

Chelsea McConnell, Executive Director, Ponca City Main Street
Chelsea works with a dedicated team of Board members, Committee members and volunteers on all Main Street projects. She grew up in Ponca City and went to college at the University of Oklahoma before finishing her degree at Northwestern Oklahoma State University. In May 2018, she was named Oklahoma Main Street Director of the Year and Ponca City was named Community of the Year.

Cathy O’Connor, President, Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City
Cathy has been instrumental in furthering development throughout Oklahoma City and promoting job creation. She was the point person on the team that worked to locate both the GE Global Energy Research Facility, and Boeing in Oklahoma City. She also led the efforts to create the NE Renaissance Urban Renewal Area and TIF district, the Core to Shore TIF District and to develop a Convention Center Hotel to complement the new MAPS 3 Convention Center.

Cornell Wesley, Economic Development Representative (OK & North TX), U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration
Cornell brings 13 years of experience in business lending, credit analysis, government relations, economic development and management to his role as Economic Development Representative for the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration. He began his career in banking as a Small Business Specialist with Bank of America.



The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program enables rural Oklahoma communities to finance a variety of public infrastructure and economic improvements and helps promote job growth as a result of these improvements.


Commerce Regional Development Specialists can help communities better understand and use business incentives as part of their economic development programs. Regional Team members are also available to help business entities with incentives information and application assistance.

LocateOK, an online property database managed by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, can get your community’s available sites in front of site selectors. Listings include detailed site-specific information, including proximity to major transportation routes, area labor force
statistics, utilities and more.

Research Services

The Policy, Research and Economic Analysis Division of the Oklahoma
Department of Commerce provides decision makers with timely data and analyses to assist them in the formulation of social and economic policies.

New Pioneer

A monthly, statewide community e-newsletter put out by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. Subscribe to stay informed about economic development news and important Commerce-related events in Oklahoma.


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