By BOB LEWIS
Without question the biggest news story of 2020 – and perhaps the most widely covered event since World War II – was the COVID-19 pandemic and the devastating impact it had on all aspects of business and human life.
Even with new vaccines now available, experts say it could take most of 2021 before the coronavirus is considered under control and life can return to normal.
Another blockbuster national story was the election of Joe Biden as President of the United States. The campaign that pitted him against incumbent Donald Trump was one of the most bitterly fought political battles in history and continues to generate diverse opinions and media attention.
While these two events captured the attention of both the news media and millions of Americans, they were not alone in generating headlines during the year. Drawn from the pages of all six Greater Tulsa Reporter newspapers are some of the major events that helped shape the area we are proud to call home.
Fighting Parkinson’s: The Ready to Fight Parkinson’s Specific Boxing Program became the official therapy-boxing program utilized and endorsed by the National Governing Body for Olympic-style boxing. CEO Aaron Sloan developed the program in 2016 to use traditional training techniques to aid more than a million Americans with Parkinson’s disease.
Parkside Hospital: The Parkside Psychiatric Hospital and Clinic opened at 1239 S. Trenton. The facility has 80 single-occupancy patient rooms to enhance treatment of children, adolescents and adults with acute mental health issues.
Pearl Ridge: Tulsa-based Noria Corp. and Noria Properties LLC announced plans to build Pearl Ridge, a mixed-use development at 10th Street and Peoria Ave. When completed, the project will consist of 80,000 square feet of mixed-use Class A office space and ground floor retail and restaurant facilities.
AA Commitment: American Airlines cemented its long-standing relationship with Tulsa by confirming its investment of $550 million to expand and upgrade its maintenance facility at Tulsa International Airport. More than 5,500 employees at the massive plant conduct about half of the overall maintenance work required by the airline.
Closing the Gap: Citing a national skills gap in jobs like manufacturing, HVAC repair and information technology, Tulsa Tech teamed with OK2GROW to tackle the problem head on. The partnership began working with five different high schools to train students starting with an entry-level manufacturing program called Skills2Grow. It focuses on the skills needed to land a manufacturing job.
Golden Campaign: An array of shiny new cars surrounded Tulsa’s Golden Driller as the community rolled out a “Golden Campaign” in hopes of attracting a new Tesla manufacturing plant to the community. While the company elected to locate the facility in Texas, the aggressive and creative campaign was a success in attracting the attention of the auto maker and the national business media.
Tiger Hill Plaza: With a rising steel framework serving as the backdrop, the City of Broken Arrow, the Chamber of Commerce and the BA Economic Development Corporation conducted ceremonial groundbreaking ceremonies for an $11 million retail complex now known as Tiger Hill Plaza. When completed, it will contain some 30,000 square feet of retail and business space.
20-Year Commitment: IC Bus and the City of Tulsa signed off on a 20-year agreement that will keep the manufacturing company here. With some 1,600 employees, IC Bus has an annual payroll of $160 million and contributes another $750 million to vendors, 100 of whom are in the Greater Tulsa area.
Redevelopment Cornerstone: Munci Power Products broke ground for a new facility at Peoria and 36thStreet N. in the Peoria- Mohawk Business Park. Situated on 120 acres, officials call the new plant a cornerstone of planned redevelopment efforts in North Tulsa.
Brio on the Rose: Broken Arrow officials began showing off commercial and residential spaces available at Brio on the Rose, the largest single project in the history of the city’s award-winning Rose District. The $20 million four-story mixed-use building at 305 N. Main, has 31,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor and 96 apartments in various sizes on the top three floors.
Union Centennial: When parents of students in four, rural, one-room schoolhouses – Alsuma, Central, Sunnyside and Union––voted in 1919 to merge and form the Union Consolidated School District, they actualized the community’s intent to provide education opportunities that could surpass even the latest offered by city schools for generations to come. The first Union Public Schools facility began accepting students in 1921. Today the district has 16,000 students and a national reputation for academic and athletic excellence.
Center For Arts: Work began on the new Brown-Kimbrough Center for Arts, Innovation & Creativity in Broken Arrow. Designed to be a regional resource, the 15,500- square-foot facility will feature multiple classrooms, flex space, gallery space, and indoor/outdoor areas to host events. The Brown-Kimbrough family, owners of AVB Bank, donated the downtown property to the city.
Long Time Coming: For many of its alumni, students and faculty members, it seemed to take “forever” for the facility now known as Will Rogers College Junior High and High School to gain its own football stadium. That wait came to an end in November when the Ropers took on the Nathan Hale Rangers in the brand-new Will Rogers facility.
More Classrooms: The Educare-Celia Clinton campus officially opened solidifying Tulsa’s reputation as a leader in early childhood education. Tulsa is the only city in Oklahoma to have four such facilities.
Growth Continues: A new $60 million Milos Tea Co. production and distribution center was added to the Owasso business family. The 100,000-square-foot complex is expected to create 100 direct and 177 indirect jobs while adding $16.4 million annually to the local economy.
New Aerospace Jobs: Northeast Oklahoma received an early Christmas present when Broken Arrow-based CymSTAR LLC announced it is adding 80 plus aerospace jobs over the next three years. The firm has been awarded multiple training system contracts in support of various military weapon systems. With them comes the need for the new positions. The immediate priority is to add 7-10 software and electrical engineers, in both entry level and senior grades
Harmony Bridge: Work continues on the renovation of one of Bixby’s most endearing landmarks. Harmony Bridge opened in 1939 and served as a conduit into and out of the community into the 1990’s. Phase I of the face lift focused on cleaning, painting and adding new fencing. Phase II, which is scheduled to be finished in the summer of 2021, will deal with decking, seating, awnings and lighting needs.