Broken Arrow Entrepreneur Ardent Supporter of River Project

Contributing Editor

RICK HUDSON: Feels the River Project will lead to prosperity for the whole greater Tulsa area.

DAVID JONES for GTR Newspapers

Rick Hudson, CEO of RL Hudson and Co. of Broken Arrow, is a man with feet squarely in two communities. He is one of the most ardent supporters of the River Project that will be voted on Oct. 9.

He lives in the Jenks school district but votes in Tulsa city elections. His business, supplying rubber products of an international group of clients, is in Broken Arrow.

He is vice chairman of the Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority, is on the executive committee of the Tulsa Metro Chamber of Commerce, is a founding member of the Broken Arrow Economic Development Corporation and is chairman of ADVANCE Broken Arrow which is raising funds to implement a plan for economic advancement.

“I have strong ties with both the Tulsa and Broken Arrow communities,” he says. “I have no major customer in either community. I’m as close to an impartial observer as you can get.”

He has a number of friends in the Broken Arrow leadership who are against the river project. “I understand their concerns. They feel that by raising the state sales tax it will inhibit their ability to get funds for projects they need within their city. They feel Broken Arrow residents will be taxed and the primary beneficiaries will the city of Tulsa, and in a way there will be no direct benefit to the citizens of Broken Arrow.

“To a degree, they’re right.

“Where we depart is that I think the prosperity that will result from the river development will bring a greater prosperity to surrounding communities than if they had used that tax money themselves.

“The river development project is going to create a lot of prosperity. It will be a star attraction for people all over the region to visit Tulsa and spend their money.

“There is going to be a lot of construction and contractors from all over Tulsa County will participate, but the biggest benefit I see is the economic development that will be created by the influx of new companies coming into the area. Broken Arrow is strategically positioned to benefit because of our economic development, proximity to Tulsa, and the easy access between the two areas offered to the Broken Arrow Expressway.

“When I moved to Tulsa 30 years ago, the city was vibrant. The oil business was booming! Then the oil bust started a trend of lowered opportunity and the loss of many of our brightest young people. I have two sons and one lives in New York City because Tulsa didn’t offer him the opportunities he wanted.

“All of my friends have at least one child that has moved to Dallas, Kansas City, New York, Chicago or the West Coast.

“Companies are looking at moving into Tulsa but they are looking at two things: they want a strong workforce and a safe, livable city with a nice quality of life.

“In order for Tulsa to grow economically we have to stem the tide of our young people leaving.

“The river development as proposed by the Indian Nations Council of Governments (INCOG) and funded by private and public funds will accomplish that by providing opportunity and excitement to our young people and give them a reason to stay in Tulsa.

“It’s almost a chicken and egg scenario. Companies aren’t interested in cities that don’t have a ready workforce and young people won’t have an opportunity to work here unless companies who have the jobs they seek move here.

“There are several critics, well-intentioned leaders in outlying communities, who are worried about an inability to fund their existing needs.

‘Then there’s an anti-tax, anti-everything crowd that opposes any vision that Tulsa city and county leaders and business leaders propose to improve our area. They are against everything and I think they are truly misguided.

“I’m a conservative businessman. I don’t like paying excessive taxes, but the fact is that taxes are the price we pay for living in the kind of community in which we choose to live.

“Do Tulsans want to live in cities like Joplin, Mo., Toledo, Ohio or Detroit? I hope not.

“If we fail to invest in ourselves then companies considering a move to Tulsa will not invest in us either.

“There are other critics who complain that before we spend money on river development we should spend money to fix the roads and bridges of Tulsa.

“The fact is that Tulsa doesn’t have the money from sales tax receipts to adequately fund our maintenance needs.

“Consider: At the present time the sales tax is 8.51 percent. Four and a half of those cents goes to the state. Three cents go to the city of Tulsa. The rest goes to the county.

“Out of the three-cents Tulsa receives, two go to the operating find for police and fire protection and city administration. The other penny is supposed to go for capital improvements.

“Right now we’re spending about $25 million on road and bridge maintenance which is about half of what we need to maintain them at their current levels. We fall further and further behind every year, which will ultimately result in even greater cost.

“There are ways to attack the maintenance problem. We can increase taxes, which gives us a sort of Band-Aid fix but does nothing for economic development.

“We can pass General Obligation bonds that will increase ad valorem taxes.

“The best way is to provide maintenance funds through an increased tax base which is exactly what a river project will do.
“Just look at what Oklahoma City has accomplished with their MAPS program and a concrete-lined river with wooden boats running up and down it. It has rejuvenated the city and provided them with an economic boom.

“Similar programs like the river walk in Louisville, Ky., the arena in Manchester, N.H. and the refurbished warehouses in Memphis, TN have revitalized their downtowns and brought economic prosperity for the entire metropolitan areas.

“This is the defining moment for Tulsa. Because of the philanthropy of generous Tulsa families we now have the opportunity to build the star attraction that will help young people in Tulsa and attract businesses because of the enhanced quality of life.

“This is an unprecedented giving of private funds that will benefit all the public.

“Tulsa once approved a 4/10s of a cent tax in an attempt to attract Boeing. It didn’t happen.

“The economic boom that will result from this river project will be of far greater economic impact that we would have gotten from landing Boeing.

“It is a bargain. The net cost to a family of four with an annual income of $50,000 will be about $100, or less than the cost of a pizza a month. There will be no tax on the elderly and people whose income is low as defined by the state and federal governments will receive rebates.

“And there is a sunset provision with this tax. It doesn’t go on forever. When the seven years are up or the $282 million has been collected it will cease, but its benefits will go on past the lifetimes of the youngest of us.

“Remember, the private funds donated will never materialize if the project is defeated. If we don’t do this we will forever lose the opportunity afforded by the philanthropy of these foundations.
“It’s now or never!”

Updated 09-24-2007

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