"Don't Stop Believing" was heard loud and clear in the BOK Center Thursday, Oct. 10, as the band Journey played to thousands of Tulsans, Northeastern Oklahomans and visitors from surrounding states. This wasn't the first time the band had visited Tulsa and performed in the top-ranked BOK Center. The arena, which has hosted Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Lady Gaga and Disney's Icescapes, is testament to the successful investment the citizens of Tulsa County made in 2003 when voting to support Vision2025. The original Vision2025 initiative was intended to meet the needs of our region at that time. Close to 10 years later, our region is faced with a new set of needs to continue the successful momentum established with Vision2025.
Tulsa County Propositions 1 and 2, commonly referred to as Vision2, will meet the current needs of our region. Clearly, jobs are on the minds of our citizens, and a significant amount of investment is needed to meet this need. In addition, we only need to look down the turnpike to see that continued investment in a city can make a substantial difference in that city's future success. The MAPS projects in Oklahoma City have transformed that city, and Vision2 is our opportunity to continue to transform ours.
Tulsa County Proposition 1 matters to us all, whether we work at the aerospace and manufacturing facilities at the airport, or we have family members, neighbors or friends employed there. A yes vote on County Proposition 1 is investment in citizen-owned infrastructure at the Tulsa Industrial Airport (TIA) complex. It is critical we act now to ensure these facilities are ready for future growth, whether with current tenants or potential future employers.
Eleven thousand or more jobs matter. When considering indirect jobs, more than 15,000 Tulsa County families depend on the aerospace and manufacturing jobs at the TIA complex.
It is also easy to see how those 15,000 families impact the rest of us. Those 15,000 families own or rent homes throughout the region, shop at local grocers, eat out on the weekends at their favorite restaurant, purchase cars at one of the region's many car dealerships, fill up their cars at local gas stations, take their clothes to local cleaners and they probably order popcorn at the movie theater where one or more teenagers work part-time, saving up for their first car.
It is clearly evident these aerospace and manufacturing jobs are critical to the success of other small businesses in the area, and the sustained growth and success of the 10 cities located within Tulsa County. Proposition 1 is about building infrastructure and investing in ourselves. It is not about supporting any one company over another, rather it is about keeping the citizen-owned airport complex buildings in top shape to ensure facilities appeal to any aerospace company looking to hire skilled workers in the Tulsa region.
These employees are our friends and neighbors, and we should do everything we can to keep them, and their aerospace and manufacturing jobs, here.
In the same manner, the job creation fund portion of Proposition 1 is necessary to attract and keep companies that provide and create jobs in our region's major industries, including advanced manufacturing, aerospace and aviation, energy, health care, information security and transportation distribution and logistics, among others. The job creation fund is not a dirty word, secretive pot of money or corporate welfare as some would make it out to be. No dollars will be given directly to companies.
The fund is a necessary economic development tool in the high-stakes world of attracting business and industry to a community. We must not cut ourselves off at the knees by refusing to realize, understand and take part in a normal, expected method of attracting new industry and assisting expansion of current business. Tulsa is today and has been at an extreme disadvantage for far too long in competing with like-sized cities for industry and jobs. The job creation fund gives us our deserved seat at the table.
Capital improvements throughout Tulsa County are also needed to improve our communities and promote a healthy economy. Through Tulsa County Proposition 2, projects like the Tulsa County juvenile justice center to combat juvenile crime, levees in the Arkansas River to prevent flooding in West Tulsa, improvement to county roads, parks and trails, among others, are improvements that attract workers and companies to the region and keep existing successful businesses here.
Vision2 also gives us the opportunity to finally have much needed additional dams in the Arkansas River. One of our region's greatest untapped assets is the Arkansas River. It is an embarrassment to not have water in the river. Tulsans deserve to have water in their river, like so many other cities across the nation. Proposition 2 can finally make this happen.
Propositions 1 and 2 will not raise new taxes. Upon passage in November, an independent oversight committee, consisting of elected officials, will oversee the funds. This ensures the public will know exactly how the Vision2 funds are helping their community. The job creation fund will have strict criteria and oversight to ensure funds are used as intended.
There are no gotcha's or surprise gimmicks in the Vision2 package as some would lead voters to believe. In an age where citizens and cities are taking back the responsibility of their community's success, Vision2 gives us all the tools to continue positive momentum forward. We must not let the naysayers ruin the future of our city, our region, our collective spirit. A yes vote Nov. 6 on County Propositions 1 and 2 is a vote of confidence and belief in our region's ability to continue to succeed and prosper.
--Michael S. Neal is president and CEO of the Tulsa Metro Chamber.
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