Oklahoma seeks new custom booth for Paris Air Show

This map is included in the "Request for Production" issued by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. The agency is looking for someone to build a custom booth for the Paris Air Show.

The Oklahoma Department of Commerce wants someone to build them a custom booth for the upcoming Paris Air Show. The “booth,” however is larger than many single-bedroom apartments in Oklahoma City.

The agency sent out a “Request for Production” recently looking for companies to build the booth, provide courtesy transportation and food for the Oklahoma delegation expected to attend the air show. The booth will have to have space for several companies that will base inside the Oklahoma area as well as conference tables, multiple televisions and a mini-refrigerator.

The document was sent to the media by House democrats and is marked “confidential.” Such confidential markings are uncommon on public documents such as an RFP. However, when FOX 25 asked the Department of Commerce about it, an agency spokesperson emailed us to say the word “confidential” was added to the document by mistake.

“The RFP is not confidential for purposes of Open Records. The footer of the document mistakenly contains the word “Confidential,” however it was an error that was not removed from the footer of a previous version of the form and was simply overlooked in editing,” Janet Craven

“There's no checks and balances on this,” Representative David Perryman, D-Chickasha, told FOX 25 about the RFP and the state’s spending on the Paris Air Show. Perryman said there should be some sort of report “to determine whether the Department of Commerce in spending this money, which in some estimates, could exceed easily half a million dollars for this one event, there's no study or no checks and balances to see if that money is actually well spent.”

While the agency declined interviews for this story due to the absence of the official spokesperson, Craven wrote to FOX 25 that:

“These meetings have proven successful over the years, and Oklahoma continues to reap the benefits of this economic development strategy. In 2011 Boeing announced that it was going to relocate 550 jobs to Oklahoma City from Long Beach, CA and in 2012 they announced an additional 1000 jobs. Umicore, a Belgian aerospace company opened in 2011 a new manufacturing facility in Quapaw, OK which created over 100 jobs. In 2013 Rolls Royce established an MRO center in Oklahoma City, which created 137 new jobs. Ferra Aerospace locating in Grove was also a direct result of conversations at international air shows.”

However, Commerce provided no data to prove what discussions took place in Paris, when and where those happened, the extent of post-air show discussions or what incentives may have played a part in the companies relocating or expanding in Oklahoma.

“We are in bad shape,” Perryman said of the state budget situation, “I'm all for economic development and I'm all for new jobs and trying to get those into Oklahoma however we need to look and see we need to review these expenditures.”

The RFP for the custom booth says there is not budget for the project. Perryman, who is also an attorney who has reviewed RFPs for clients, said most of the time budgetary limits are included when seeking bidders for a project.

We asked the Commerce Department what it planned to spend on the project.

“While Commerce coordinates the activities at the Air Show, the booth is traditionally a shared cost between the participating community partners and Oklahoma companies attending. Oklahoma companies that qualify are reimbursed for a portion of their costs through a U.S. Small Business Administration STEP Grant.
The Oklahoma Department of Commerce was awarded the State Trade Expansion (STEP) grant in October of 2016. The grant is an export promotion initiative to make matching-fund grants for states to assist small businesses, with the intent of increasing the number of small businesses that are exporting and to increase the value of exports for those small businesses that are currently exporting. Funding for 2016/2017 will help eligible companies to offset the cost to participate at designated international trade shows, which this year will include the Paris Air Show.
At the 2016 Farnborough Air Show, 6 companies and 3 communities attended the show with the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. ODOC expects similar participation for the 2017 Paris Air Show.”

The Commerce Department’s reply did not contain any cost estimate for the custom booth or any hint to what the agency was willing or able to spend for the project.

The Oklahoma booth is 72-square meters, which translates to just over 775 square feet of space. According to the map provided of the expo area in the RFP, the booth space has already been sold to Oklahoma. It is located next to other corporations, on the way to the restrooms.

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