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Diversification Of The Local Economy Is One Of The Aims For 2022

Economic diversification will be an element of Tulsa’s road to prosperity in the next decade.

That was one of the themes delivered by Hillcrest President and CEO Kevin Gross, who was installed as the Tulsa Regional Chamber’s 2022 board chair on Wednesday.

At the chamber’s annual meeting, held this year at the Cox Business Convention Center, he succeeded Rose Washington-Jones in front of a gathering of at least 900 people.

“Tulsa’s Future (a chamber-led partnership) has enabled the creation of more than 72,000 employment and $4.2 billion in capital investment since its beginning 16 years ago,” Gross added.

“Tulsa’s Future must continue to support our region’s main economic sectors of sophisticated manufacturing, aerospace and military, energy, transportation and logistics in the years ahead.” We need to improve our support for these businesses.

“However, as we look ahead to 2022 and beyond, we will concentrate our efforts on three areas that have the potential to become major contributors to our region’s economy by 2030.”

Automotive technology is one of them.

“With nearly every major manufacturer launching electric vehicle lines, (global consultancy) Deloitte predicts a compound annual growth rate of 29% over the next decade, with electric vehicle sales rising from 2.5 million in 2020 to 31.1 million by 2030,” according to the report. For regions like ours, automotive technology gives a fresh potential to develop an automotive corridor.

“A regional automobile corridor would contain not only OE assembly factories, but also components suppliers and battery technology locations.” And we’re not starting from the beginning. Canoo, The Traton Group/Navistar, and Francis Energy are among the automotive technology companies already based in our region.”

Making room for regional headquarters and technology offices is also a priority, according to Gross.

“We have two Fortune 500 headquarters — ONEOK and Williams — as well as QuikTrip, one of the largest privately held firm offices,” he remarked. “Although we currently have a lot of headquartered companies in our region, we have more than 1.2 million square feet of available class A office space, with major projects like the WPX and Santa Fe towers on the way.”

“Our lease rates are also far lower than those in comparable areas like Austin and Dallas, making us a viable challenger for businesses looking for new or expanded headquarters or tech facilities.”

He also believes the region should pursue advanced aerial mobility, an emerging business aimed at developing and operating new air vehicles capable of safe, reliable, and low-noise vertical flight.

According to Deloitte, sophisticated aerial mobility could generate 280,000 employment and $30 billion in pay and benefits by 2035, according to Gross.

“Projected expansion in advanced aerial mobility represents an exceptional opportunity to more fully activate and harness area expertise,” he added, citing the region’s longstanding deep ties to the aerospace and aviation industries. “For inspiration, we need only turn to local enterprises like TAT Technologies and imco, Spirit AeroSystems, Omni Air, Flight Safety, L3 and American Airlines.”

Expansion of tourism and the creation of a varied, equitable, and inclusive community will be equally crucial, according to Gross.

According to Mosaic, the Tulsa Regional Chamber’s network of companies and nonprofit partners committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, 69 percent of participating enterprises have initiatives in place to cultivate a pipeline of diverse leaders, according to the 2021 Inclusive Workplace Index. In addition, 85 percent fund training or provide access to programs aimed at embracing diversity and overcoming bias.

Furthermore, 83 percent of those who took the 2021 index involve employees in community DEI activities by fostering volunteerism with a variety of people.

“These figures show actual development from year to year, and certainly century to century,” Gross added. “However, if we want to be the community of the future — the community that my three grandchildren will choose to call home — we must not let up. We need to keep developing and expanding programs that promote inclusion in all of its forms.”