Vision2 for Tulsa

Analysis:  The Tulsa County jobs and infrastructure package Vision2 provides two propositions.  Proposition 2 generates $257.9 million for city projects, $92 million for county capital projects and $12 million is the expected bond and interest cost for a total of $361.92 in improvements without increasing taxes.  If you like the individual projects and trust local elected officials, this package will earn your support.

Proposition 1 is a little more complicated, but the short take away is that facilities at the Tulsa International Airport (TIA) Industrial Complex are owned by the City of Tulsa.  We have operated them as a slumlord and failed to maintain what has provided high paying jobs from multiple enterprises that have clearly multiplied prosperity throughout the region for generations. 

Since Herman DeVry’s short flight on July 11, 1911 in his homebuilt monoplane; Tulsa has been a key city for aviation (visit the Tulsa Air and Space Museum for dramatic details).  In the 30s Tulsa was World’s Busiest Airport with 58,000 takeoffs recorded in 1939.  On March 4, 1941 Tulsans voted and approved a bond issue to purchase 1,000 acres of land to build a U.S. Air Force plant to produce bombers.  The Vision2 package is the long delayed necessary upgrade.

The inside of some buildings have not been painted since my father worked there during WWII.  At the American Airlines maintenance facility today, workers must flatten the back tires and lift the noses of newer planes just to get them in the door for work.  Over 15,000 Tulsa families depend on aerospace/manufacturing jobs at the now 639-acre complex.

Vision2 Proposition 1 improvements include: Roof maintenance, hanger modifications to support new aircraft, pavement repairs to ramps, roads, and parking lots, utility upgrades, air conditioning, and equipment specific to aircraft maintenance.

Of course the primary tenant of these facilities, American Airlines, is currently in the news with bankruptcy issues which, depending on who you ask, is either the total and complete fault of mindless management or destructive demands by unions.  Pick one or believe they are both at fault as you may, even if the company structure dissolves or another business buys them, the Tulsa facility holds capabilities that should continue to generate regional economic prosperity.

Also included in Proposition 1 is a fund to provide an expected $52.94 million to attract and keep companies that bring jobs to Tulsa County.  This money is restricted to designated infrastructure such as sewer lines, water and street improvements.  Employers are required to provide guarantees of employment levels within specific industries (aerospace/aviation, energy, health care, information security, professional services, regional headquarters, transportation, distribution/logistics).  Even if these companies later move (terms of location are required), the community infrastructure remains for other private companies to utilize.

Many who follow local issues have known of the needs at the TIA complex for years and how American Airlines was seriously concerned by Tulsa’s failure to maintain the facility.  Other cities have offered to build whatever American wanted if they would move, but the company is both loyal to Tulsa and aware that one of their competitors could easily assume operations at the complex if American should relocate.

This writer argued against the timing of Vision2 passionately with multiple elected officials, but American Airlines made a compelling case that they need a commitment from local officials on critical infrastructure as soon as possible.  Ok, fine, the greatest turning point of our nation’s history will be decided Tuesday as we choose between socialism and free enterprise, but regardless of that national outcome Tulsa’s local infrastructure requires attention.  This package does not grow government, but provides funds for bricks and mortar that support employment critical now and for generations to come.  

Tulsa Today supports Vision2 in both propositions.  For more information on Vision2, click here.