April 17, 2024

How the Tulsa Global District is Spurring Entrepreneurship in East Tulsa

A member of the group China Rose performs at the Square at Nam Hai during Tulsa Global District's 2023 Night Market event.

With more than 25 countries represented and over 80 unique dialects and languages spoken among its residents, the Tulsa Global District far outpaces the rest of the city in terms of diversity per capita. This unique part of east Tulsa is also home to over 200 businesses, a number that Tulsa Global District Executive Director Luisa Krug is committed to growing. We recently caught up with her to discuss the history of the area, the challenges of immigrant entrepreneurship and what’s in store for the Global District moving forward.

What is the cultural significance of establishing Plaza Santa Cecilia as the site for East Tulsa’s new business incubator?

Plaza Santa Cecilia has a long history of providing space for small businesses to grow. Having an incubator in this building builds on that history, recognizing that many immigrant owned businesses have worked hard to succeed without many resources. It’s extremely significant to be able to lower those barriers to starting and growing a business in a place that has already done so much for small, immigrant-owned businesses in east Tulsa. 

Also, the idea of a plaza has so much cultural significance that we can build on, like creating an actual plaza-slash-public space in the outdoor area. 

What unique challenges do immigrant entrepreneurs face when starting up a business?

Starting a business is hard for anyone, but immigrant entrepreneurs in particular struggle with barriers such as being able to qualify for traditional loans and understanding municipal permitting processes. Many of them come to Tulsa having had success as business owners previously, but local rules and regulations often differ from those in their home countries. Language access can exacerbate all of these barriers.

How has the City of Tulsa’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund rental assistance program made an impact in the Global District?

We were able to disburse $150,000 to 65 households living in East Tulsa in partnership with El Centro in Fall 2022. This is extremely meaningful because it helped families stay in their homes in east Tulsa, which makes our community stronger. Because our program was smaller, we were able to disburse money to families more quickly. We are now applying for additional grants to sustain this program long-term.

Tulsa Global District operates several different programs and resources that are a major boost to the community, such as the Night Market event and Business Support program, not to mention beautification efforts. Can you tell us what’s coming up in the immediate future for Global District?  

Our next big event is the Night Market on May 17, from  5p.m. to 9p.m. at Hannah Hall, located at1801 S. Garnett Rd.! This will be an amazing event with performances (Hmong dancers, lion dancers, dance lessons, and more!), food trucks (ramen, Filipino food, boba tea, and more), vendors and activities for kids. 

We are also working on a trash can art project (with support from the TYPROS Foundation) and we have 15 local artists painting trash cans that will be displayed throughout the district. We’re also in the middle of a planning process to focus on public space in the district. More information on that is coming soon!

The Global District is one of six community-based organizations participating in PartnerTulsa’s Community Impact Initiative. Can you talk about what it means to have support to build the capacity of your organization to do work, and how you see this program bringing the community together?

We are excited to have this opportunity to build community through art in the Global District. Our project will be led by local artist vnice, who will help us build a team of local artists that are representative of the district in order to engage with community members on what art they would like to see. 

The goal is to install a mural at the underpass at 21st St. and Hwy 169 as a welcoming gateway to the Global District. We want this to represent our community and show visitors and residents that this place is an amazing cultural asset to our city.

You’ve served as Executive Director for the Tulsa Global District for a few years now. What do you like best about your job?  

I like getting to see projects go from an idea to implementation! There is still so much work to do, but it’s been great to see ideas like murals, or the incubator, go from discussion, to planning, to actually becoming reality. It’s also really nice to see changes happen in real time in the district, because we know that there are so many people doing great things in the area, but we want to provide support so that the Global District is the most thriving, vibrant neighborhood in our city. And, of course, the food!