POSTED ON MARCH 21, 2012:
Fresh faces at City Hall bring new opportunities and development to T-Town
"I can't sit still very long," she said, throwing out ideas, hopes and goals at a rapid-fire pace at Topeca Coffee Shop near the Mayo Hotel on a recent weekday.
Tammy Fate, with a mane of thick dark-blond hair and a million-dollar smile, is a high-energy new addition to the city of Tulsa's economic development team. Since June 1, the self-described nature girl who loves camping, cycling and hiking at Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness has been blazing a trail for Tulsa to develop, grow and compete.
Our Fate in Her Hands
Fate draws the attention of retail heavy-hitters (like say, Sprouts grocery stores, Apple stores, Crate & Barrel, big-name steakhouse and seafood restaurants) from all over the nation, and lets them know what Tulsa has to offer.
For Fate, the cold-calling, the cajoling, the persistence, the promoting, is an energizing challenge.
"I'm not shy," she laughed. "I'll call anybody and talk to 'em. It's a challenge for me.
"I have to at least get [a business] to say yes, no or maybe. I want a response...I want to find out what they're looking for. And you have to be persistent with a lot of these places because everybody in the world is calling them. We're one of a million (cities) who are calling.
"It takes years to get them to come around but at least we're planting the seeds now."
Part of Fate's job with the city of Tulsa is fishing for big-market 'gets,' but the other part of her job is just as important: helping local small businesses develop inside Tulsa's city limits. In September, the city of Tulsa implemented a new program to help local and nationwide businesses find locations where they'd see the most success. The software is Buxton Analytics, a popular tool cities and businesses use to find good fits by analyzing about 79 unique characteristics.
Fate runs reports for commercial brokers who are looking to fill vacant space, small businesses looking to expand and even concerned citizens who want to improve their parts of town. District 2 City Councilor Jeannie Cue even called to see what businesses might be a good fit for West Tulsa; Fate was able to run several reports for Cue to help her on her mission to rehabilitate her district.
Some businesses are looking at the entire U.S. and abroad, so "they may not be focused in on Tulsa," she said. The Buxton reports allow her to let companies know they may be a good match for specific parts of T-Town based on demographics, population, income, cultural amenities, highway access, and many more. The reports, she said, "Gets our name out there, and gives us an opportunity to retell our story."
As a home cook and foodie, Fate said fish tacos led her to one of her tastiest success stories so far. She's been driving out of her way to eat "the best fish tacos in the world" at Baja Jack's in Owasso for years. Since she started at the city in June, Fate has also been slipping her business cards to the owner, telling him to open a second location in Tulsa. After running Buxton reports and several meetings, Baja Jack's will open up in the space formerly occupied by Tin Star, address. Fate swears by their guacamole, cheese dip and margaritas. We'll have to check 'em out once they open their doors in late March or early April.
Another big success for Fate was a recent Synergy Tulsa forum. The get-together came about after Fate noticed that a lot of commercial brokers wanted and needed advice and guidance on what to do with their existing properties. On Jan. 25, several city of Tulsa staffers talked to brokers about acquisitions, incentives, ideas and resources. "It was a chance for them to interface with city staff...and let them know about resources within the city that we can provide," Fate said.
The city of Tulsa "is like a city within a city," she said, and it can be tough to know who to call and to put a name with a face. Through the newly reorganized economic development department, headed by another recent acquisition, Dawn Warrick, the city has never been more invigorated, flexible or friendly.
"We're working together, and we all want to see new, good things happen," Fate said. "It's exciting to explore and see what the possibilities are."
Some of Fate's goals in her position with the city are to help build up the Shoppes on Peoria and see more development along the Arkansas River. She also said she'd like to help "fill a lot of vacancies and educate people on what retailers are looking for. I'd also like to get more focused on what we need in the area, and get people to be more comfortable calling the city, and being a good resource for them."
This T-Town firebrand grew up in Sperry, and graduated from Northeastern State University with a bachelor's degree in marketing. Later, Fate earned an MBA from NSU, and currently teaches about 30 to 40 students a semester at the college.
Before joining the city of Tulsa economic development team, Fate got her feet wet in Broken Arrow, where she worked as the suburb's vice president of marketing and retail development.
After chatting with Fate for an hour, it's tough not to feel the electric possibilities of what's right around the corner for Tulsa.
While Fate is blazing a trail for Tulsa to realize its retail ambitions, check out next week's UTW for a profile of another fresh face at the city of Tulsa: Crystal Keller. She's a nuts and bolts business liaison in the city's economic development department, who's helping to streamline the long, complicated and sometimes tedious process of bringing new businesses to life.
Clearing a Path
While Fate is blazing a trail for Tulsa to realize its retail ambitions, next we met up with another fresh face at the city of Tulsa: Crystal Keller. She's a nuts and bolts business liaison in the city's economic development department, who's helping to streamline the long, complicated and sometimes tedious process of bringing new businesses to life.
Keller moved from Phoenix to take the position as Development Services Coordinator. On Feb. 28, 2011, the willowy brunette boarded a plane and hit the ground running in Tulsa the next day. Since then, she's been helping Tulsans get their arms around the complicated process of starting up a new business venture.
From permits to infrastructure to the review process to code compliance issues, Keller is in place to "help streamline" and "alleviate the negative effects" of getting small businesses set up in Tulsa, she said.
Right now, Keller has her hands full with a lot of different projects, like the Kendall-Whittier West Project, Shoppes on Peoria, One Place Tower, and Brady Arts District construction coordination. "Any time it's more than a basic [start-up], I try to keep open communication with them, build relationships, and let them know they can call me at any time," Keller said.
The glass city of City Hall can seem intimidating, and "for small business owners, it can be overwhelming," Keller said.
She offers "a more personal experience," by giving faces to names, and problem-solving the tougher parts of getting Tulsans' great ideas from brain to building.
Keller said one of her main goals is to "get more people engaged in the process to develop Tulsa." From her vantage point, she is able to see a lot of our entrepreneurs' creative ideas for moving the city forward.
"There's a lot of buzz, and a lot going on in Tulsa," Keller said. The native Oklahoman worked for a real estate developer while she lived in Phoenix, and focused on philanthropy as a community liaison.
Though every project is different, Keller consults and partners with project leaders to identify potential pitfalls before they face setbacks in the city's extensive plan review process. When she finds a possible problem, she contacts the architect or engineer before any time is wasted. "Just to save a day or save a week makes a big difference," she said.
Both Keller's and Fate's positions were put in place as part of Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr.'s initiative to make Tulsa more business friendly. Keller and Fate work under Dawn Warrick, the city's freshly hired director of planning and economic development. Warrick came to Tulsa from Louisville, Ky., where she was the city's assistant director of planning and design services.
Keller and Fate said they appreciate how "easily accessible" the mayor is to them. Keller said Bartlett is "creative and open to ideas and possibilities" for Tulsa.
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