Steve Bradshaw Aims to Raise Tulsa’s Profile

Managing Editor

BOKF PRESIDENT: Steve Bradshaw was inaugurated as the 2018 chairman of the Tulsa Regional Chamber in January. Bradshaw’s three areas of focus for the year are public education funding, new economy jobs and direct flights. Bradshaw has served as president and CEO of BOK Financial since 2014.

Courtesy BOKF

Editor’s Note: Tulsa Regional Chamber 2018 Chair Steve Bradshaw is one of Greater Tulsa Reporter’s “10 to Watch in Greater Tulsa 2018,” as announced in its January 2018 issue.

As Financial President and Steve Bradshaw takes the reins as 2018 Chairman for the Tulsa Regional Chamber, Bradshaw brings his unique vision to the leadership position based on over 25 years with one of the most reputable banks in the state.

Bradshaw is a Bartlesville native who joined Bank of Oklahoma in 1991 after the bank purchased his seven-person investment firm.

Bradshaw’s interest in finance stretches far back into his teens: “I was the 15-year-old helping my father decide on his 401k investments,” he laughs.

His first bank job was in college as a part-time drive-up teller.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in business finance from the University of Central Oklahoma and his banking degree from the Southwestern Graduate School of Banking at Southern Methodist University.

As chamber chair, Bradshaw’s three areas of focus this year revolve around specific barriers that he has seen firsthand in business: public education funding, new economy jobs and direct flights.

Inadequate public education funding is not new to Oklahoma nor to Tulsa; yet, the situation continues to grow more dire, especially after the Step Up Oklahoma budget plan failed to pass in February.

“We need a more compelling voice,” says Bradshaw. “We are underinvested in public education, and that is directly related to economic development.”

While’s Tulsa’s low cost of living is a plus in luring companies to the region, when companies add in the cost of private education because of low public education funding, that drives cost of living up, he notes.

In addition, an underfunded public education system raises questions as to the quality of our workforce, Bradshaw continues.

The need for technology-driven jobs and the workforce to fill them is growing around the world—jobs involving information technology, research and development, and cybersecurity.

While Bradshaw realizes that this is a long-term aspiration, the need to think about emerging economies and then take positive action to grow local opportunities is essential for Tulsa to keep pace with other cities, he says.

He believes that plan involves both attracting technology-driven businesses and working with educational institutions and companies to develop internship programs, including the many area companies that already have large technology departments, such as ONEOK, Williams, QuikTrip and —“Technology-driven jobs at are the highest percentage of jobs being added.”

Although Tulsa has seen a number of recent direct flight announcements, including Dallas, Austin, San Jose, California, and the D.C. area, the need for daily direct flights to New York City and Los Angeles remains, Bradshaw says.

“If people can’t travel to areas of commerce quickly, companies’ views of an area are negative.”

In March, Bradshaw plans to initiate a FlyLocal campaign asking companies to pledge that their employees will fly in and out of the Tulsa airport unless it causes a financial hardship.

Perhaps surprisingly, Bradshaw has found that many travelers are choosing to bypass Tulsa as their airport of choice due not to cost concerns but to the possibility of missing connecting flights.

But that very practice only serves to decrease air traffic through Tulsa and keep direct flight dreams at bay, he says. “It’s in everyone’s best interest to use the Tulsa airport as long as it’s not an economic disadvantage.”

While Tulsa certainly has its hurdles to jump, though, the city also has much to brag about, adds Bradshaw, in the way of quality of life amenities, entertainment options and public/private partnerships.

“We just have to do a better job of telling people about it,” Bradshaw says.

Updated 03-06-2018

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