Ample local economic development on tap for 2022
As COVID-19 moves into its third calendar year, a plethora of pandemic-related issues continue to squeeze the U.S. economy, include spiking inflation, a mass exodus from the workforce and the evolving impact of the Omicron variant.
But locally, a number of economic development projects are cause for optimism.
“I’m very bullish on 2022 for Tulsa,” said Arthur Jackson, senior vice president of economic development of the Tulsa Regional Chamber.
Among the most anticipated initiatives is being worked by a regional coalition headed by the Indian Nations Council of Governments (INCOG), which recently became one of 60 finalists to win a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) via its Build Back Better Regional Challenge.
Chosen from 529 applicants, the coalition will compete for more than $70 million in phase two, federal funds to back the Tulsa Regional Advance Mobility Corridor, which seeks to build on the region’s historic manufacturing and aerospace strengths to compete globally for job growth in advanced aerial mobility and electric vehicles.
Tulsa is expected to know in few months if that project gets financial backing.
In terms of northeast Oklahoma economic development, plenty of eyes will be focused on what progress electric vehicle maker Canoo makes on its mega-microfactory in Pryor. The company said in December that production will start at a advanced industrialization facility planned for northwest Arkansas, adding that it remains on target to bring online its factory in Pryor in late 2023.
Back in Tulsa, Amazon opened a new 270,000-square-foot operations center late last year, and Costco is in the process of closing on the purchase of a site at 4816 N. 118th Ave. East, the city said this past week. That center is expected to open at the end of 2022 or early next year.
Also targeted for construction this year is Tulsa’s first downtown grocery store in more than two decades, a project worth a minimum total investment of $73 million, according to the city.
It is part of a proposal that include at least a 20,000-square-foot grocery store, 240 apartments, an additional 15,000 square feet of retail space and a 100-unit boutique hotel, according to a city official.
In addition, work is expected to be completed by at least the second quarter on what was to be the 260,000-square-foot headquarters for WPX Energy, whose jobs went to Devon Energy when the Oklahoma City company absorbed WPX in early 2021.
Filling the 11-story building with tenants could be a herculean task but Jackson sees that as an opportunity.
“We’re going to do everything we can do to land a new company to occupy that building, either all of it or a huge chunk of it,” he said. “What we don’t want to happen is just shuffling existing companies from one building to another because that’s just going to leave a hole in the real estate market.
Tulsa’s capacity to cultivate large firms — Williams, BOK Financial and ONEOK are good examples — provides Jackson an enriched pitch for the soon-to-be-available office space, he said.
“We have a lot of headquarter companies,” he said. “So, when we’re on the road and we’re visiting headquarters or tech office locations that are looking to expand or relocate, we have something to sell them. I see this an an opportunity to sell Tulsa. If we don’t have spaces going up, like WPX, like (the $125 million) Santa Fe Square, my team can’t recruit.”
Building that Tulsa awareness is a daily task for the city and the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce. The state, however, has some momentum generated in 2020 when Tulsa finished second in the Tesla sweepstakes.
Regarding the recruitment of the gigatruck facility, which will be built outside Austin, Texas, Gov. Kevin Stitt said that roughly 2,000 news stories viewed by an estimated 30 million people mentioned Oklahoma.
“That caused the business world to take a step back and say, `Something must be going on there.’ … “We’re getting there as far as getting our name on the map,” Jackson said.
To bolster those efforts, the Chamber plans to hit the road more often in 2022, relying less on meeting site consultants and targeting instead the companies, themselves.
“If we’re going to tell Tulsa’s story to the world, to the nation, to other companies that might not take notice of us or have an opinion one way or another,” Jackson said, “we have to take it upon ourselves to get in front of the decision-makers at these companies that we hope to recruit here or expand here. … It’s best that we go straight to the well, so to speak.”
Photos: Planned or recently completed downtown area Tulsa projects
Davenport Urban Lofts
Oklahoma Museum of Pop Culture (OKPOP)
The Brook Restaurant and Bar
USA BMX arena
Santa Fe Square
East Village project
Cox Business Convention Center
Leadership Tulsa’s downtown hub
Tulsa Club building
Elgin Parking Garage
Arvest Parking Garage
Cathedral District buildings
Mixed use project at Greenwood, Archer
First Place parking garage
The Cheairs Furniture Co. building
Vast Bank building in Greenwood District
Hyatt Place Hotel
The Flats on Archer
Holiday Inn Express & Suites
The Hartford Building
Jacobs Lofts on First
First Baptist Church
Former KOTV Building
New restaurants: Taco Bueno and Burger King
GKFF renovating the Archer Building
The Palace Building
Hampton Inn & Suites
The former downtown YMCA: Y Lofts
Fox Hotel and Universal Ford buildings
The Transok Building
East End Village
Elgin Park brew pub and KSQ Design office
Ross Group headquarters
Urban 8 townhouses
Best Western Plus Downtown Tulsa/Route 66 Hotel
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