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Tulsa gears up for the future

Ben Goldstein on Friday, January 26, 2018 at 1:00:00 pm

Tulsa’s Future, the multiphase, regional economic development plan for the Tulsa, Oklahoma region, was designed to infuse the area with investment dollars, create jobs in targeted industries and develop a skilled workforce to attract new businesses.

“In the early 2000s, there wasn’t a lot of money allotted to economic development, and the chamber and our partners wanted to change that,” said Brien Thorstenberg, senior vice president of economic development at the Tulsa Regional Chamber. “We developed the first iteration of Tulsa’s Future, with an original goal of adding more than 10,000 jobs with an average wage above $45,000.”

The plan thus far consists of three five-year phases. During Tulsa’s Future I, which ran from 2006–2010, the campaign helped create 15,888 jobs and added more than $482.6 million to the region’s payroll. Phase II, which ran from 2010–2015, went further, creating 28,814 jobs and adding more than $2 billion in capital investment.

The campaign is now in its third phase, which began in 2016. Tulsa’s Future III focuses on four main pillars: economic development and business attraction; workforce development and education attainment; entrepreneurs and small business; and quality of place and downtown revitalization.

“One of the things Tulsa’s Future III allowed us to do was increase our marketing budget, so we’re doing more in terms of website, digital marketing and building relationships with companies,” said Thorstenberg. “In terms of workforce development, we’re working hard to align the skills being taught in our public schools to match the needs of our companies.”

“On the innovation front, we’re working with our business incubator to target startups, and we hired a director of entrepreneurship who has a seat on the executive council of our board,” he continued. “We’ve also formed a downtown coordinating council to generate investment and improve walkability for our downtown area.”

Moving forward, Thorstenberg says the most important challenge will be maintaining the campaign’s momentum.

“Economic development is not like a light switch, where you can turn it on and off,” he explained. “Industries peak and go through swings, and sometimes new industries emerge. There are so many challenges out there, and we need to keep up the momentum so we can successfully navigate them.”

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Tags: Strategic Plan

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