By DAVID JONES
Editor at Large
BRAGGING RIGHTS: Bixby has expanded 57 percent in the last decade. City Manager Doug Enevoldsen lists Bixby’s school system, safety, educated workforce and per capita income and land availability as reasons for Bixby’s continued growth.
Ask Trish Richey or Krystal Crockett or Doug Enevoldsen where the near-term expansion of Bixby is most likely and they will point you to the same strip of asphalt: Memorial Drive between 101st Street and 131st Street. They have an inside view of the expansion; Richey is Bixby’s director of economic development, Crockett is the president of the Bixby Metro Chamber of Commerce and Enevoldsen is Bixby’s city manager.
Although for decades the center of Bixby business activity was in downtown Bixby and along Memorial Drive near 151st Street and Memorial Drive, the current expansion is north on Memorial Drive, bleeding over the Tulsa city limits. The mile between 101st and 111th on Memorial used to be cow and coyote country, but in the past decade it has exploded to include restaurants, banks, hotels, a post office, auto repair shops and all manner of individual shops.
“Most of the expansion is in the extreme north of Bixby,” says Crockett, “but we can see it going further and further south toward the heart of traditional Bixby.” The southern expansion is important to the town coffers. Bixby’s city limits from 101st Street to 111th Street are bounded by Memorial Drive and Mingo Road. At 111th Street, it expands a mile each east and west. Thus, as one drives south from 101st to 111th on Memorial Drive everything on the right is in Tulsa and on the left is in Bixby. After 111th, Bixby owns both sides of the road, which is important because that means sales taxes on products sold are going to Bixby and sales taxes are what make up the majority of Oklahoma city budgets. “That’s what we’re looking for,” says Crockett. “We want to attract businesses that collect sales taxes.”
The recent opening of the Reasor’s supermarket at 111th Street and Memorial Drive will undoubtedly prove a major boost to the Bixby economy, but even more help is coming with a Sprouts Farmers Market a mile north and on the east (Bixby) side of Memorial Drive. Sprouts Farmers Market specializes in natural and organic foods and will carry produce, bulk goods, meat and seafood, as well as vitamins and supplements. It is part of a large health store boom that has seen similar outlets opening in Jenks and south Tulsa.
When it comes to specifically what stores are being wooed to Bixby, city leaders are somewhat quiet. “Everyone is trying to woo businesses to their area and if they find we are negotiating with someone, we are likely to have a competitor,” says Richey. “We are in a number of negotiations but with whom will have to wait until names are signed on a dotted line.”
Positive changes are ahead for Bixby in 2013. Bentley Park Sports Complex at 148th and Memorial Drive will have a new softball facility with four new diamonds to join the existing four and, says Richey, that means that major tournaments can be wooed. New concession stands and restroom facilities are also being planned for the soccer complex and more acreage has been added with future expansion in mind. This forward thinking, says Enevoldsen, is the kind of thing that is going to make Bixby a highly desired destination for both new businesses and residences.
“Look at what we have to offer,” says Enevoldsen. “We have one of the finest school systems in the state so newcomers can be assured their children will get a top-flight education. We have the safest city of its size in Oklahoma. We have a highly educated workforce and our per capita income is the highest in the Tulsa area. We have all the benefits of a major city (a quarter of a million people live within a 10-mile radius) plus lots of open land still awaiting development. Our quality of life is superb.
“There are things we need and we will in time get, including a hospital for one and another bridge across the Arkansas River for another. We need better public transportation to downtown Tulsa. These things are on the drawing board and may not come in the next year or two but as the rooftops continue to multiply in Bixby, they will come.
Bixby’s recent path would seem to point to a flourishing future. The population expanded 57 percent in the last decade and is now at an estimated 23,000. A similar, or even greater, expansion is expected by the 2020 census. Crockett, Richey and Enevoldsen are not about to specify the exact businesses that will boost Bixby, but none of them have the slightest doubt that, with everything already in place, the boost will come.