Tesla Press Conference

Spectators watch as a large sheet comes down in front of the Golden Driller, painted as Tesla founder Elon Musk, during a press conference for Tulsa for Tesla at Expo Square in May. Musk announced on Wednesday that he has chosen Austin, Texas, rather than Tulsa, for the site of the next Tesla production plant. IAN MAULE/Tulsa World file

Wednesday’s announcement that Tesla’s CyberTruck Gigafactory will be built in Austin, Texas, was disappointing.

Tulsa might have always been an underdog in the competition for the giant production facility, but the city and its supporters fought hard for it, and the hope that built in the community naturally becomes frustration.

The Gigafactory would have been good for Tulsa and good for Tesla, but that’s a connection that isn’t going to happen.

Tesla founder Elon Musk praised Tulsa’s efforts and held out hope for future expansion here. Gov. Kevin Stitt suggested the city could also be home to suppliers for the Austin facility.

Either of those possibilities, indefinite as they are, would be welcome, of course, but it’s time for Tulsa to move on.

Well, it’s almost time.

First, we need to find out what happened with Tesla.

As a matter of standard practice in such situations, the city and its public and private economic development leaders will do a forensic examination of its Tesla efforts, including, we hope, interviews with the company’s top decision makers.

The aim there is to find out in as much detail as possible the why of the decision: Why did Tesla choose Austin? What did that city have that Tulsa did not? Was it the presence of a world-class research university? Was it a matter of a ready, qualified workforce? Did Texas outbid us in economic incentives? Was the quality of life in Austin deemed so superior that the company felt compelled to go there?

Critical to this analysis is this: Were the deciding factors things that Austin uniquely has or were they things that Tulsa lacks?

Then the question becomes: Is there anything Tulsa can do to get more of those decisive elements so that the next time we’re a finalist for a job-creating jackpot, we come out on top.

The standard response to losing a big deal like this is to say that the competition sharpened our economic development skills and showed the world that we can compete with anyone for the best opportunities, and there’s truth there.

But the more productive truth needs to be what can we do to ensure that next time we are the bride, not the bridesmaid.


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