By DEWEY F. BARTLETT, JR.
Mayor of Tulsa
Ronald Reagan was right. Jobs are the best social program a community can provide its residents. The growth and expansion of prosperity for Tulsa and this region come first and foremost at the doorstep of every business. Business, not government, is the foundation of our future.
Government’s best service is in supporting businesses so they can prosper and create jobs.
In a very real sense, everything that city governments, chambers of commerce and the community focus upon can be tied to economic development and stability.
Good schools and an educated workforce can attract employers. Low crime rates and lower business costs keep families and businesses from moving away. Low tax rates, pro business development policies and affordable housing are strong factors in a business’s decision on where to locate. With that, it is also important that the city continuously directs its resources on the important quality of life attributes such as a quality park system, dependable utility services, sustainable arts and cultural amenities, and to encourage healthy living.
Over the years, the focus of economic development has changed. At one time it was all about more smoke stacks in town. Then it was luring high tech companies to the city. This was followed by the idea of clustering similar businesses together. Today, the evolution of economic development has evolved further into what could be termed “economic development gardening” where the focus is on the growing, nurturing, and expanding of the businesses that already exist in Tulsa and the surrounding cities.
It is also vital that cities have strong partnerships with the State of Oklahoma and the area Chambers of Commerce in our efforts to lure companies to move their headquarters to Tulsa and this region to be close to already existing operations or to expand their workforce here. This must be balanced against our commitment to support our hometown businesses.
Today, jobs follow people and where people choose to live is vitally important to the decisions businesses make on where to locate. To have the potential employees ready for business, we must attract, train and educate a modern skilled workforce that can act as a catalyst for bringing new companies to our region.
The City of Tulsa, along with the leadership provided by the Tulsa Metro Chamber has spent the last 17 months focusing upon both the attraction of new industries and the expansion of industry already here.
As Mayor, I have found that there are no substitutes for my personal involvement in the efforts to attract and retain employers. I am sure my fellow Mayors in Tulsa County would agree. Sometimes this simply means listening to the concerns of local business. Sometimes it joins chamber or state officials on recruitment trips. Through all of these efforts over the past 17 months I have learned that senior business officers want to know that the top political leadership in the city is committed to helping them succeed.
I am pleased to say that through the joints efforts of many, 2,943 new jobs have been announced in Tulsa from both new and existing industry. These jobs are in health care, oil and gas manufacturing, aviation and professional management sectors. When we take into account the entire region, including jobs created at the Port of Catoosa, the number of announced new jobs over the past 17 months is close to 4,800.
This job growth doesn’t happen by accident and it doesn’t happen quickly. They come as a result of specific strategies that are coordinated with our local and state partners. It’s truly a team effort with regional rewards. Tulsa is doing much better than many cities across the country and together we will continue to build Tulsa’s future prosperity.