Though residents were still likely to have been gracious, hospitable, and welcoming, early summer 2019 might not have been the best time to visit Tulsa, Oklahoma.
That’s because the state’s second largest city was still mopping up from the devastating flooding of the Arkansas River that took place over Memorial Day Weekend. As soon as floodwaters began to recede, city leaders began reassuring residents that things were going to be OK—no pun intended. While it’s hard to predict future flooding, some officials already began using the natural disaster as a potential opportunity to make things better, including pushing harder to replace aging levies and fast-track stalled infrastructure improvement projects.
The Tulsa World newspaper even evoked a need for “Keystone Spirit”—a general term for the collective Oklahoma initiative, know-how, and elbow grease that gets things done—to have a role in making sure preparations are in place to prevent future disasters and allow the community to continue thriving.
It’s this same spirit that is also credited with helping Tulsa and Tulsans continually adapt and improve, whether it’s becoming ground zero for the country’s oil boom in the early 20th century; the push to diversify the economy when fossil fuel prices started tanking in the 1980s; or the successful 21st-century blending of a revived natural resource industry with other lucrative financial sectors.
Today, the Tulsa area is considered to be strong economically as well as culturally. It houses the national headquarters for the Williams Company and the QuikTrip convenience store chain and is the home of the largest maintenance facility for American Airlines—the city’s largest employer. In 2018, Amazon announced plans to build a massive fulfillment center in the area that will add 1,500 new jobs.
Tulsa boasts several minor- and major-league sports teams, plus an opera company and a symphony. It’s known for a large collection of Art Deco buildings and even has a Deco District featuring a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. There’s a zoo, an aquarium, multiple art museums, a giant statue of a blue whale along Route 66, and the world’s largest praying hands.
Outside of the downtown core and suburbs, the surrounding Green Country is a blend of oil refineries, manufacturing companies, recreation trails and wildlife refuges. Bloomberg’s Business Week ranked Tulsa as the 38th-best place to live in 2013, and it was a recent finalist for a national Engaged Cities Award. Livability ranked it as number 66 out of the Top 1,000 Places to Live Anywhere in the World.
Much of the current economic gains in Tulsa are credited to Vision 2025, a county-wide one-cent sales tax increase approved in 2003 that has helped fund various capital projects along with offering various tax incentives and funding packages to attract employers. Each year since approval, this financing option has paid for everything from community swimming pools to the Bok Center and Tulsa Regional Convention Center.
Economic leaders are now looking beyond 2025 to future civic needs, including whether to extend the tax or come up with other creative solutions. In the meantime, it’s a good opportunity for businesses to invest in the community. Continue reading to learn why.
Eat well. The area is a blend of cultures, from Native American influences to the American South. This is seen in its artwork and even its food. Today, diners will find everything from barbecue to pizza to Lebanese dishes. Many people are surprised to find authentic and official Coney Island Hot Dogs there. In the 1920s, Coney Island Hot Dog founder Christ Economou left New York and began opening hot dog restaurants around the country. After opening one in Tulsa, he decided he liked the area so much, he stayed put. Today the Tulsa location is still operating, and diners can get a traditional Coney Island hot dog or have chili added to it.
Think Green. Green space is vital and Tulsa boasts more than 130 parks. Its newest addition, The Gathering Place, offers 66 acres of space for everything from a performance area to a playground, to a skate park, garden and pond. The park took several years to design and included public input plus more than $465 million in private support. It was voted as the country’s favorite civic attraction by USA Today readers in 2018.
City of Nicknames. Among the myriad titles bestowed on “T-Town” over the years including “The Paris of Oklahoma” and “The Buckle of the Bible Belt,” Tulsa seems especially proud of being called “The Oil Capital of the World,” “The Birthplace of Western Swing,” and “The Birthplace of the Mother Road.” (City officials, including Cyrus Avery, had a strong role in connecting Midwest communities to the first interstate road.)
The area’s first production craft brewery opened in 2008 and offers beer enthusiasts a variety of high-quality ales and lagers. Although the location has become a popular brewpub and social area for the Tulsa community, the brewery keeps moving forward in its goal of being the best in the state and eventually, the country. It also has had a commendable role in bringing full-strength beer back; until the mid-1990s, the only post-Prohibition legal beer available was low-strength brews from national brands.
With the exception of local law enforcement and public safety officials concerned about the presence of drones during rescue efforts and emergencies, most everyone else thinks that unmanned aircraft has the potential for everything from easy agricultural surveys to movie-making. Drone enthusiasts in Oklahoma and Kansas have even teamed up recently with government agencies like the Small Business Administration to create the UAS Cluster Initiative. The project has the goal of establishing and growing drone-related companies, sharing technology and making it easier to access national and global markets.
Although it’s easy enough to think of energy companies only as massive multi-national organizations, Oliphant Energy is a good example of doing well at a local level. The privately-held oil and gas company is based in Tulsa and involved in investments throughout Oklahoma and Texas, including exploration projects in the Permian and Anadarko basins.
If you’ve ever needed something in a hurry, you might want to consider being part of Trivyol. While the high-tech company doesn’t produce or deliver actual products like Amazon, it does allow members to put out a call throughout its global community to request information or photos from a certain geographic area through a mobile app. If you’re also a member and the request is something you know or pertains to a location near you, you can take the task and make some money off of your effort.
Tulsa-area officials cheered in April at the ribbon-cutting for a new manufacturing facility for MST Manufacturing, a precision CNC machining and fabrication shop. The company officially opened its doors in 2016 in Claremore and focuses on making parts for the automotive and aviation industry as well as for the medical and petroleum industries The company is now located in the former National Oilwell Varco location that includes three buildings for a total of 52,000 square feet and 100 employees.