March 31, 2023

Increasing Economic Development Opportunities in Tulsa Starts with Utilizing the Right Tools

By: Kian Kamas
Executive Director, PartnerTulsa

Whether it’s Scheels’ recent investment in Woodland Hills Mall and the start of demolition on the old Sears building, progress to revitalize Route 66 in advance of the 100-year anniversary of the Mother Road, multiple cranes in the air across Downtown, or the growth of Muncie Power Products at the Peoria Mohawk Business Park, it’s clear Tulsa is undergoing a wave of revitalization.

These projects and numerous others highlight major economic development successes across a range of areas and development types.

A common theme that runs throughout these successes is the City’s strategic use of key economic development tools. These successes are not happenstance, and they rarely occur overnight—in fact, many of them have taken years of effort and leadership across countless public and private partners to bring to fruition.

Among the tools proven to be the most impactful in spurring development across Tulsa is the Tax Increment Finance, also commonly known as TIF. The simplest explanation of a TIF is that it allows the City to capture the new taxes generated by a development, and use those new taxes to help make the development happen and to support public improvements that facilitate further investment.

Absent this ability to reinvest new taxes generated by a project back into that same project and the surrounding area, many economic development efforts are not economically viable and would not otherwise come to fruition.

Tulsa’s approach to TIFs has been one of thoughtful partnership that seeks to focus on key areas across the city, while working alongside taxing entities to ensure their the past 6 years, the City has set aside 10 percent of revenues generated by TIFs to support the school district in which TIFs are created.

This policy decision is a deliberate recognition that Tulsa’s economic development success is deeply tied to the success of our schools, and we must ensure schools have access to the increased revenues brought by new developments.

As Tulsa leaders continue to advance economic development efforts across the city, TIFs will undoubtedly play a critical role in bringing major projects to fruition. In the coming months and years, Tulsa has the opportunity to leverage its economic development toolbox to increase the supply of quality housing across the city, spur innovation among our industry base and grow the next generation of jobs, as well as develop and revitalize some of the city’s most important commercial and cultural corridors.

Tulsans have always understood the value of investing in themselves and their city, and the strategic use of TIFs is an important component in developing a vibrant community. To tackle our current challenges and realize our opportunities, we must continue to innovate and seek solutions that help bring difficult projects across the finish line.

Mayor G.T. Bynum and the Tulsa City Council, working alongside our regional government partners, have proven that forward-thinking investments in major economic development opportunities can increase economic opportunity across northeast Oklahoma.

As city builders and leaders, we must remain committed to finding bold and innovative ways to attract quality investments that will drive our economy, while ensuring each project we take on has a positive impact for everyone across our city.