TulsaPeople takes the economic pulse of five Tulsa communities committed to regional growth.
Broken Arrow’s Main Street includes restaurants, shops and other businesses.
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A regional effort for economic development has been generally successful for Tulsa and its suburbs. The program, dubbed Tulsa’s Future, also is innovative in the way it combines the efforts of chambers of commerce, municipalities and the private sector across northeast Oklahoma.
“It is unusual to find this many chambers and municipalities working together,” says Matt Pivarnik, executive vice president and COO of the Tulsa Regional Chamber. He says it may be “unique to find this many organizations putting aside competition and working as one.”
The basic thrust is seven economic development compacts among the Tulsa chamber and the chambers of commerce in Broken Arrow, Jenks, Owasso, Sand Springs, Bixby and Sapulpa.
They joined together in 2006 in a Tulsa’s Future project to create new jobs — one that has been so successful, its goal was increased. It began as a five-year initiative to attract 10,000 jobs paying $50,000 a year or more. Two and a half years later, 7,000 jobs have already been added and the goal raised to 15,000 jobs.
Those jobs “run the gamut on size,” Pivarnik says, from a 500-job expansion to smaller organizations adding 25 jobs.
“We work together on prospects,” he says, understanding that a new job in any community will benefit the entire area.
Broken Arrow was the first Tulsa suburb to experience major development, spurred by construction of an expressway to connect it to the central city.
It is now the largest suburb, with more than an estimated 100,000 residents — larger than all other Tulsa suburbs combined. In fact, it is Oklahoma’s fourth-largest city with still more room and opportunities to grow.
That growth “has been both a challenge and an opportunity,” says Lisa Frein, director of downtown development for the Broken Arrow Economic Development Corp.
“National retailers and developers are now paying closer attention to Broken Arrow,” she says, because of its size and its “coveted
audience of young, educated families with disposable income.”
The challenges, she says, are to maintain the public infrastructure and “recruit the businesses, retailers and service providers needed” to support the growing community.
The city, the Broken Arrow Chamber of Commerce and its Economic Development Corp. work together to meet those challenges, she says.
Broken Arrow is the state’s third-largest hub of manufacturing, with more than 300 companies. Some are newcomers, but others have grown with the city.
Blue Bell Creameries has been there since 1992. Flight Safety, a world leader in aircraft simulators, has more than 700 employees and inspired a number of related companies to locate there. A company started in a garage and a firm formed by two brothers evolved into Tactical Electronics, creating state-of-the-art military and law enforcement technology, and Air Hygiene, a world leader in emission testing.
Businesses are attracted to Broken Arrow, Frein says, by “ample land available; great housing options for employees; an outstanding school system; and strong educational partners in Tulsa Technology Center, Tulsa Community College and Northeastern State University.”
The retail sector also has boomed, with restaurants, small shops and such major national operators as Bass Pro and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
A new 110-acre Warren Theater project will feature “a unique movie-going experience,” plus dining and other retail venues, Frein says.
It also could be a catalyst for other development, just as Bass Pro inspired two hotels, numerous restaurants and stores and has become a regional attraction, which Frein says “essentially proved the market to be more than just a suburb.” That was a product of developers who provided the land along with a city investment of $24 million in infrastructure and buildings.
But economic development opportunities remain, Frein says.
“Broken Arrow has only utilized around half of its total landmass, so there is plenty of room to grow,” she says. “We are actively working to recruit new retailers to the community with national recruitment efforts, and we have an active business retention and expansion program to help grow the existing businesses and manufacturers in the community, as well as work to attract new businesses.”
Broken Arrow works actively with Tulsa and other suburbs, as well as with Wagoner County, which comprises some of the city.
Downtown redevelopment also is under way as the result of a revitalization master plan developed several years ago. Leaders looked at what was happening in downtown Tulsa and other cities. Three years ago, a group took a two-day bus tour to inspect other communities and gather ideas.
From that came the naming of the area as the Rose District, commemorating a past in which Broken Arrow was known as “the city of roses.” A streetscaping project will convert a portion of Main Street, which includes restaurants, shops and other businesses, into a pedestrian-friendly entertainment district.
That area may be small, says Wes Smithwick, Broken Arrow chamber president and CEO, “but its impact is huge.”