Before the Korean War, no bank in Texas was larger than the First National Bank of Tulsa. After all, it was First Tulsa that made the first-ever drilling rig loan. Tulsa at the time was truly the Oil Capitol of the World.
Oklahoma also had the “King of the Senate,” Senator Bob Kerr who along with Senator John McClellan made the Arkansas River navigable. Oklahoma had the furthest inland ice-free port in the country. Tulsa and the Oklahoma scene exuded promise and a bright future.
Unfortunately, competition never rests. Texas built their DFW airport which relegated other airports as obsolete or no better than feeders. Tulsa lost most of its non-stops and direct flights. On the banking scene, both First Tulsa and Bank of Oklahoma were run into the ground by “out of state” seasoned bankers. Sometimes a bank’s directors discover the grass is not always greener on the other side.
We also produced politicians who possessed limited or no vision and the state stalled and drifted behind. That is precisely where Tulsa finds itself today. If a new restaurant opens or a construction crane appears, we cheer. We need dozens of cranes and more taxpayers. We need to view economic development in gradable terms not merely giving the Tulsa Regional Chamber $2.5 million a year and thinking we are getting a fair return. Tulsa needs an economic development office in California.
Tulsa needs new leadership. Two recent articles crystallized the problem.
The first was a Wall Street Journal entitled, “Help Wanted: Struggles of a lost generation.” The story line followed young adults who are “spinning their wheels.” No career prospects, a mountain of student debt and minimum wage jobs.
Our phony economic recovery has left millions of Americans behind. Is it in the country’s best interest to let the super rich slowly buy all of America?
What should happen is allowing these former students to dispose of at least half of their student debt at colleges where they were misled into degree programs that produced no job prospect (like women’s and black studies). School administrations should bear as much economic suffering as they so easily dish out to their students. Here, too, Tulsa’s young adults need to get back on life’s track and not delay their futures. The second article is entitled, “Love that Giant Sucking Sound” in Forbes Magazine. The article is mainly about Ross Perot, Jr. and the family’s real estate empire north of Fort Worth, Alliance – Texas.
Six years ago, I supported Governor Mitt Romney’s bid for the presidency. During those days, the Governor’s campaign included Texas and Oklahoma as working partners – so I got to know the Texas supporters. One of Governor Romney’s prominent supporters and campaigners was Ross Perot, Jr.
Many of the Perot’s key employees are ex-military, which is fine by me. They raised huge contributions for the governor’s campaign. After the race, I got to tour the Perot’s real estate operation in their leather appointed helicopter flown by a former Marine. In the Forbes article the real estate operation is referred to as “The Inland Empire” or Alliance Texas.
Basically, the Perots realized that at some point Fort Worth would give up its cattle feedlots and stockyards. All the smell from the south kept North Fort Worth from being developed so they bought the land and waited for the cattle to leave. They even owned the Texas Speedway, which pays all its yearly bills in just one day of racing.
How does this affect Oklahoma and Tulsa? Simply, they see themselves as the largest inland port. They built Alliance Airport for FedEx, Burlington Northern’s rail yard loads 600,000 containers a year and 32 million square feet of industrial space awaits business, as well as a luxury residential community with 9,000 homes. The Perot’s have vision and the money to make it work. Our Port of Catoosa has needed more space to grow. Oklahomans expect the Port to foot the bill. Unless they pay it out of port revenue nothing happens. Our Port is a real jewel.
Inaction was not what Senator Bob Kerr dreamed. Lack of vision and resources was not what built Tulsa. We need a change.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett should go. He has gained no new business and his claim to be Tulsa’s “Business gettingness mayor” is laughable. He can’t even pick up your trash without fouling it up. Former Mayor Kathy Taylor, if she can give up her pettiness and tackle economic development, can easily be a great non-partisan mayor. Her handling of the ice storm was reminiscence of a General Norman Schwarzkopf campaign.