City of Tulsa Creates Central Economic Development Entity to Increase Shared Prosperity and Racial Equity

The City of Tulsa announced recently that it is moving forward with recommendations from an eight-month study, which calls for the creation of a consolidated, independent economic development authority. 
The new entity will merge the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development (MOED), Tulsa Industrial Authority (TIA), Tulsa Parking Authority (TPA), and Economic Development Commission (EDC) into a single, enhanced trust authority; the entity will also provide staffing for the Tulsa Development Authority, and an expanded board will allow TDA trustees to serve coterminous on the new authority.
The authority will streamline and strengthen the city’s economic development efforts through an independent, professionally-staffed development team with additional accountability and larger goals of shared prosperity and racial equity. 
“Over the past four years, we have worked toward our vision of becoming a globally competitive, world-class city,” Mayor G.T. Bynum said. “We’ve announced some of the largest economic development investments in Tulsa’s history – from Muncie Power Product’s decision to locate at the Peoria Mohawk Business Park to our corresponding housing-focused TIF that will allow us to invest nearly $40 million in north Tulsa neighborhoods in the coming years. However, we recognize the tremendous task in front of us as we seek to increase shared prosperity and racial equity in Tulsa. To do this well, we must have a world-class economic and community development organization in place. The recommendations from this report will do just that.”
Work began in early 2020 with consulting firm HR&A Advisors to create an inclusive strategy through which the City could improve the economic opportunities of Tulsa’s communities and address racial disparities, while streamlining processes and addressing existing inefficiencies. The new authority will be charged with leading the city’s work in the areas of business retention, expansion, and attraction; commercial, neighborhood and housing development; public finance and incentives; and workforce and human capital initiatives.
The announcement comes upon the completion of a structural analysis of critical departments, commissions, and public trust authorities involved in economic and community development. 
A steering committee and city leaders partnered with HR&A to embark on an outreach process to examine the capacities and priorities of local partners. The team facilitated seven stakeholder roundtable discussions, held more than 30 staff interviews from nine agencies, departments, and commissions, and reviewed more than 200 reports, documents and publications.
“This is an aggressive strategy that many cities throughout the country have not undertaken, but it’s exactly what we need to overcome deep-seated economic disparities across Tulsa,” District 1 City Councilor and Tulsa City Council Chair Vanessa Hall-Harper said. “This merged economic development Authority will be held accountable to a mission and vision that broadens opportunity and targets initiatives to communities that have been left out. This plan provides a framework and foundation that Tulsa can build on for generations of future success.”
According to the 2020 Tulsa Equality Indicators Annual Report, residents of North Tulsa are about half as likely to earn a living wage as residents of South Tulsa, and the median white household income is nearly twice that of Black household income. In addition, large disparities exist between North Tulsa and other parts of the city regarding the availability of existing jobs in relation to where people reside. There are nearly twice as many jobs in Midtown than in North Tulsa.
“Tulsa’s racial and neighborhood-level disparities in access to economic opportunity are a key barrier holding the city back from achieving its ambitious vision,” said Rose Washington, Chief Executive Officer of the Tulsa Economic Development Corporation and a steering committee member for the study. “We need bold policies and structural changes to grow a more resilient and equitable economy, and I commend the City for taking a hard look at where those gaps exist.”
HR&A, which recently worked with the City of Pittsburgh and its urban renewal authority to develop a strategy for their public economic and community development efforts, worked with MOED to align the activities, missions and structures of seven key economic and community development entities.
The new entity is expected to launch in late 2021. For a full version of the economic development strategy,
Partners assisting HR&A in the development of the economic and community development strategy include: The Mayor’s Office; Economic Development Commission; Tulsa Development Authority; Tulsa Industrial Authority; Tulsa Parking Authority; and the Tulsa Public Facilities Authority.
About HR&A Advisors
HR&A Advisors is a mission-driven economic development and public policy consulting firm. HR&A’s work at the intersection of the public and private sectors enables the firm to create effective strategies for cities to tackle their most pressing economic development challenges, including how to align economic development functions and programs with the broader policy goals of cities and their communities.