Stillwater News Press

Local News

November 16, 2011

NEW: Olive Garden officially coming to Stillwater

STILLWATER, Okla. — Olive Garden has agreed to build a restaurant in Stillwater, the Stillwater Chamber of Commerce announced Wednesday afternoon.

Darden Restaurants, the company that owns the Olive Garden franchise, will build a restaurant north of Texas Roadhouse at the Lakeview Pointe Plaza on North Perkins Road. The project will cost $1.2 million, according to a building permit submitted Wednesday to the Stillwater Department of Development Services, and the contractor will be Jerry Kachel Builder Inc. from Spring, Texas.

The chamber has been working with Darden representatives for more than one year to bring Olive Garden to Stillwater, said Josh McKim, economic development executive director. That’s a fairly quick turnaround, he said, compared to efforts to bring similar projects to other communities.

“It’s nice to see some positive movement in the business area even though we’ve had some tough news lately,” he said.

Stillwater continues to outperform Oklahoma and the rest of the country economically, McKim said, making it a popular new retail location.

Olive Garden should open sometime early next spring, he said. The restaurant will add 70 full-time equivalent jobs to Stillwater, McKim said.

“We’re delighted to have the opportunity to bring the Olive Garden to Stillwater,” said Bill DeMuth, vice president of real estate and development for Olive Garden, in a press release. “As we continue to grow, we have choices about where we invest in that growth. And in the current business environment, local incentives help us accelerate those investments. The commitment we’ve received from the city of Stillwater and the chamber of commerce to work with us in a spirit of collaboration has been outstanding.”

The Stillwater Industrial Redevelopment Authority approved an economic incentive plan in early October to encourage Darden to build an Olive Garden. The incentive is a tax rebate agreement that agrees to replay the restaurant 1 percent of the city’s 3.5 percent sales tax for up to 10 years or $500,000.

The incentive was passed by a 4-1 vote. Councilor John Bartley was the lone no vote, explaining the city needs to have a consistent long-term plan for economic development rather than approving projects as they come in. The Stillwater City Council has since taken steps to research and establish a comprehensive tax incentives plan for future retail development.

Lisa Navrkal, Stillwater Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, said the city’s incentive package was the final negotiation piece needed to make Olive Garden’s arrival to Stillwater official.

“They specifically asked for an incentive, so it definitely had a bearing on where they would locate,” she said.

Darden, an Orlando-based company, operates more than 1,900 restaurants nationwide, including Olive Garden, Red Lobster, LongHorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, Baham Breeze and Seasons 52.

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