Column: Historic investments position Tulsa as a leader in advanced mobility industry

Tulsa’s history has been shaped by critical moments and investments that have defined the trajectory of our region and state.

At its founding, Tulsa was the converging point of cultures, with the Muscogee, Cherokee and Osage nations meeting in what is modern downtown Tulsa. In the 1920s as Tulsa became the Oil Capitol of the World, the skyscrapers that now define our skyline and much of the wealth that continues to make us one of the most philanthropic cities in the country were built. The ambition born during this era led us to envision a city grounded in a love for aviation that has lasted and grown ever since.

In the 1980s when Tulsa was affected by downturns in the oil and gas industry, Tulsans did what we do best — we leveraged innovation and partnerships to continue our impactful role in the energy sector. Companies like Williams, ONEOK, Magellan and others solidified their presence in Tulsa and made investments in our city that we still see today.

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These moments defined our history and set the course for our future.

Today, we are in the midst of yet another moment of generation-defining shifts that will build a future centered on innovation and advancements in the air and ground mobility industries.

This transformational shift will be made possible in large part to investments like the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge.

In early September, Tulsa was announced as one of 21 Phase II awardees for the program — an award that brings $39 million in transformational economic development investments to be undertaken across Tulsa and northeast Oklahoma during the next four years. Excitingly, Oklahoma was one of only two states to have two cities that received awards from the EDA, a feat that positions our state as a nationwide leader in the advanced technology sector.

These investments are a part of a regional strategy to transform our economy and further build out the advanced mobility industry in our region — an industry that takes Tulsa’s history and prowess in aerospace and manufacturing and translates it into jobs centered on drones and the electrification of air and ground transportation.

This strategy’s success will depend on the implementation of a set of strategic yet comprehensive investments that will collectively work to generate quality jobs for Tulsans and our fellow regional residents.

Our regional plan includes a beyond visual line of site drone corridor stretching from Tulsa to Stillwater; the establishment of a research center and research consortium at Oklahoma State University-Tulsa’s Helmerich Research Center; the creation of a labor market observatory and strategic jobs program in partnership with Tulsa’s higher education institutions; and investments in wastewater infrastructure in Inola to support industrial development, which recently was also approved for $14 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding by the Oklahoma Legislature.

As we celebrate what will undoubtedly be the beginning of our next chapter, we also recognize this has been made possible through the collective effort, support and vision of countless regional leaders from the city of Tulsa, PartnerTulsa, INCOG, Tulsa Innovation Labs, our tribal partners at the Osage Nation, OSU and other community and corporate partners.

Our collective investments will allow us to not only support the growth of existing companies such as Navistar-IC Bus, L3Harris, Lyseon North America, Spirit Aerosystems and others, but to grow and attract the next generation of companies that will define our regional economy for decades to come.

G.T. Bynum has been the Tulsa mayor since 2016 and previously served eight years on the Tulsa City Council. 

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