HomeLeadersForward ProjectionDowntown OKC’s Jane Jenkins Reflects on Tenure

Downtown OKC’s Jane Jenkins Reflects on Tenure

She’s departing the organization she helped grow over the last 14 years, but she’s starting a consulting business for both local and national clients.

As Jane Jenkins wraps up 14 years as president and CEO of Downtown OKC Partnership, we asked her to reflect on the accomplishments of which she was most proud and to talk about what’s next.

Jenkins moved to Oklahoma City in 2009 to accept the job, leaving Boulder, Colorado, to help bring structure to a rapidly developing downtown. Under her leadership, the Downtown OKC Partnership has grown from five to 13 staff members and has created numerous programs and projects to keep downtown growing and thriving.

In late 2022, Jenkins announced her plans to retire this year, and when Jennifer Nakayama was named as her replacement Jan. 9, along with a February start date, Jenkins said she started making definitive plans for the transition.

“I learned a long time ago that Jane not working doesn’t work,” Jenkins said. “I’m not retiring so much as starting chapter three of the work. I’ll be forming an LLC to consult with local and national clients on issues like community development, strategic planning, placemaking and economic development. I’m not sure how it’s all going to work yet, as I’ve never done it before, but I’ve learned to always be open to whatever opportunities are out there.”

The original BID for the downtown districts was created in 2000, but it didn’t include Film Row and Midtown. Truthfully, very little was happening in either of those districts in 2000, but when Jenkins arrived in 2009, both were showing positive signs of growth. Under Jenkins’s leadership, both districts were added to the BID, and then just last year, the districts were restructured to create a more intuitive and geographically consistent framework.

“When you’re on the inside of an organization, it’s too easy to focus on the problems that need solving,” Jenkins said. “Social media has exacerbated that tendency. Taking time to look at how far we’ve come is important. I’m proud of the organization I’m leaving to Jennifer. When I started, yes, there was no Film Row and no Midtown as part of the BID, and there were also one-way streets all over downtown, and the Myriad Gardens hadn’t been renovated.”

In fact, there was no Devon Tower either, and The National was far from the beautiful complex it is now. The city was on the cusp of rapid growth — the Thunder arrived a year before Jenkins, but there was no streetcar, no 21C, no Omni, no Scissortail Park. Potential was on the horizon, but it hadn’t really started solidifying in 2009.

“The kind of growth we saw in downtown was incremental,” Jenkins said. “But then you wake up one day and realize you live in a very different city. I’m proud of that growth. Proud that I’m leaving behind a stable, financially sound organization. We essentially work with seven boards of directors, and we’ve worked well with the city and Alliance for Economic Development; they have recruited businesses to come here, and we’ve helped retain businesses downtown. Most of that work has been unseen.” 

Also unseen were the ways Downtown OKC helped the businesses survive the COVID pandemic.

“We didn’t have a manual; no one did,” Jenkins said. “We worked with business owners to help them get through very tough times, and I’m proud of how we responded. All in all, we’ve been a very successful organization, and it feels good to leave it in this condition, knowing that Jennifer has a great team and a great organization to continue the work.”

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