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Opinion: Is Tulsa poised to be the the next Austin? In many ways, but we're really the only Tulsa
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Opinion: Is Tulsa poised to be the the next Austin? In many ways, but we're really the only Tulsa

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When I decided to move to Tulsa earlier this year, the most common question I heard from friends and family was, “Why Tulsa?”

I’ll admit, I didn’t know much about Tulsa before accepting a job at the Tulsa Regional Chamber, but I knew big things must be happening since the city competed head-to-head against Austin, my previous home, for a Tesla Gigafactory.

After visiting, it was obvious why the Tulsa region caught the attention of Tesla executives, as well as why programs such as Tulsa Remote have been so successful. The community is family-friendly, inclusive and inviting. Tulsa has a vibrant quality of life paired with a low cost of living, a combination that’s hard to come by.

However, the one thing that stood out to me was the strong collaboration among regional partners on economic development.

These partnerships, especially the contributions of Native American tribes, are unique to northeast Oklahoma. Tulsa Regional Chamber helps coordinate these partners through Tulsa’s Future, its regional economic development partnership supported by public and private investors.

It’s been eye-opening to learn about and experience the region working collectively on economic development projects firsthand.

From initial proposal to talent recruitment, tribal and regional partners have been key participants in all phases of northeast Oklahoma’s most transformative economic development projects. This collaboration gives the Tulsa region a competitive advantage over peer communities nationwide.

The largest economic development projects in the region’s history, which have created thousands of jobs and generated billions of dollars in capital investment, are the direct result of regional collaboration. For example, Sofidel’s $360 million tissue paper manufacturing facility in Inola, which opened last year and employs more than 300 people, involved 23 different partner entities .

If anything has been made clear during the past 12 months, it’s that we are stronger together. The power of collaboration is what attracted me to Tulsa. Northeast Oklahoma’s regional approach to economic development and strong partnerships are what make us different, and I look forward to leaning into these differences to attract new companies to the region and help grow existing businesses.

As we look to the future of northeast Oklahoma, the Tulsa region has opportunities to further position itself as a leader in advanced manufacturing and aerospace, two industries that have historically brought transformational change to our part of the state. We also have opportunities to grow new industry clusters and create the jobs of the future in the fields of technology, cybersecurity and innovation.

When talking about the future of Tulsa, the conversation almost inevitably leads to Austin. People sometimes say Tulsa is the next Austin, and I understand the comparison. Tulsa is in the midst of a renaissance similar to one Austin experienced 20 years ago. And yes, Tulsa and Austin were both in the running for that Tesla Gigafactory.

But from firsthand experience, I can tell you Tulsa is not the next Austin. Tulsa is the next Tulsa.

So when people ask, “Why Tulsa?” I tell them because Tulsa is a great place to live and raise a family. It’s part of a region uniquely positioned for growth through its strong partnerships.

Put simply, Tulsa is different.

Arthur Jackson is senior vice president of economic development at the Tulsa Regional Chamber.

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Arthur Jackson is senior vice president of economic development at the Tulsa Regional Chamber.

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