To meet Roger Ramseyer is to meet a coiled spring of energy and ideas. A trim and fit middle-ager, he walks briskly and talks quickly with an amiable-though-purposeful directness.
The next phrase or idea comes across as well prepared and ready to leap off his tongue. He radiates the aura of someone who gets things done.
“Whatever my other faults, I’ve never been accused of lacking energy or enthusiasm,” he says.
Having arrived in Tulsa a few years ago by way of Wichita, Kansas, Ramseyer was hired by Cox to serve as its Tulsa market vice president.
Previously, he was managing director of global government and public affairs/corporate communications for INVISTA and Koch Industries. He also served as vice president and managing officer of the Koch Family Foundation.
Ramseyer clearly loves his new hometown and is involved not only with the Chamber, but also with several local charities such as the Salvation Army, the Tulsa Community College Foundation, Crossover Community Impact, Boy Scouts, Life Church, Stand in the Gap and the Tulsa Rotary Club. Over the past year, he and his wife, Terri (with whom he has two grown children), have attended more than 100 civic functions and charitable events, connecting with numerous people and organizations, in part to prepare for his role as incoming Chamber chairman for 2020.
Indeed, connectivity is a huge theme for Ramseyer and one that he sees as crucial for Tulsa’s future. A graduate of both the University of Kansas and the University of Texas, Ramseyer relaxes by taking his standard poodle on long walks or hiking the trails on Turkey Mountain.
How do you see your role as Chamber chairman?
The job of a chair is to really focus on advancing a vision for the organization they are serving. Proverbs 29 says, “Where there is no vision, the people will perish.” The goal will be to advance the Chamber’s vision, challenge our incredible Chamber staff to execute our vision and then evaluate and do that in an expeditious manner.
The second thing is to be very aggressive in selling this great city. The first phase of Gathering Place is complete, we have a plethora of festivals and activities, and with our hospitality industry, casinos, museums, sports teams and parks, to me, Tulsa is all dressed up and ready to go.
What is your main focus for 2020?
I’m in the technology businesses, and in my day job at Cox, it’s really all about connecting people: connecting businesses, educational institutions, municipalities and other forms of government. My goal will revolve around connectivity of the community with itself, and by that I mean diversity, equity and inclusion. It will be part of my goal as we enter into the centennial year of the Tulsa Race Massacre in 2021 to make sure Tulsa is doing a better job at connectivity between north Tulsa, south Tulsa and everywhere in between and people of all colors, races, genders, faiths and preferences on the economic spectrum.
Another part of connectivity is connecting others outside of Tulsa with our city through branding. We are going to strive in 2020 to enhance the visibility of Tulsa in adjacent states and, as a result, boost tourism. There are some exciting things we hope to announce in the first of the year in terms of branding Tulsa and reminding people this is a great place not just to spend a weekend but an entire week.
One other important thing is connecting Tulsa to the world through more direct flights. That is the No. 1 thing I hear from business leaders. Whether it’s a direct flight to Washington, D.C., New York City or San Francisco, our city is big enough, and we would definitely benefit from them.
What do you see as your biggest challenges as incoming chairman?
Prioritization, focus and expeditious execution are always among the biggest challenges of any organization, whether a for-profit business, charity or government. We have a nationally acclaimed professional staff at the Tulsa Chamber led by one of the most well-regarded Chamber CEOs in the nation in Mike Neal. He and his team of talented professionals will continue to prioritize, focus and execute to ensure we meet our goals.
How about the Chamber’s biggest challenges next year?
Workforce development is another big challenge. We’ve got to connect future employees with education so they can supply us with the workforce of tomorrow. We are currently short more than 19,000 degreed individuals that we need in order to be able to fuel our economy for the future. And, it’s my opinion we not only need to focus on higher education but also technical training.
Workforce development is not just about those who will be entering the workforce soon but about focusing on students at all educational levels, from early childhood to K-12 and beyond. Another thing we need to look at is helping students overcome the impacts of ACEs, Adverse Childhood Experiences, that will help these children become the successful, productive workforce of tomorrow, which we desperately need.
What are you bringing to the post of Chamber chairman that is new or different?
The first thing I hope to bring, unlike past chamber chairs who have had such a rich knowledge of this community, is an outsider’s view. I’m relatively new. I’ve been here less than five years, and that affords me a unique opportunity to come in and look at all Tulsa has to offer because I’m not used to it, and I’ve seen the challenges in other communities. In a previous town where I was involved in civic leadership, people would say, “If we could only be like Tulsa!” When I got here, people said, “If we could only be like Austin!”
I think Tulsa needs to be like Tulsa and make sure present residents and future residents know what it has to offer.
You recently led a Tulsa delegation of 100 business, civic and government leaders on an intercity visit to Minneapolis/St. Paul. What were your takeaways?
One of the major takeaways was how the community there has enhanced economic prosperity by supporting the growth of major headquarters based there such as Target, Cargill and 3M. Roughly 50 Fortune 500 companies are headquartered there and only one relocated there, so they have a strong emphasis on growing their own.
We gained insight about why their residents are so passionate about their community, how they benefit from regionalism with the suburbs and also how they were inspired by initiatives that enhance diversity, equity and inclusion. On the other hand, we learned that every community has its challenges, too. For instance, Minnesota’s top personal income tax rate is 9.85%, almost double Oklahoma’s. Believe it or not, we also learned by firsthand observation how Tulsa’s weather can be a selling point for our community.
What’s your pitch or short speech for selling Tulsa?
I actually had the opportunity to do this recently because Cox did some hiring, and we brought people in to live and work here. What I heard from them was, first, the low cost of living. Some said they were able to buy twice the house at half the price. Second was easy commute times; relative to other communities, Tulsa is a piece of cake. Thirdly, the friendly nature of the community; fourthly, the cultural amenities this community offers as well as educational opportunities. Some said Tulsa Achieves, a two-year scholarship program that gives Tulsa County residents essentially a free education for two years, was among compelling reasons that attracted them to Tulsa.