Summit seeks Tulsa-area residents’ ideas for regional improvements

By P.J. LASSEK World Staff Writer
Published: 4/15/2012  2:27 AM
Last Modified: 4/15/2012  9:21 AM



 

Public input is pivotal as area leaders begin to carve out a plan to invigorate the Tulsa region, officials say.

“It’s the citizens’ perspectives and ideas that we need to hear,” Metro Chamber Chairwoman Becky Frank told the Tulsa World.

“We are on the cusp of regaining our foothold as Oklahoma’s center for culture and quality of life,” she said. “Now is the time to think about the future growth of the region and strengthening our reputation as an economic powerhouse.”

Modeling the successful Vision 2025 process, regional residents are invited to participate in the enVision Summit, a free three-hour forum intended to gather public input on how to best improve the region.

“We need to keep the momentum and continue pursuing bold ideas for our future,” Frank said.

The summit, sponsored by Tulsa County and a coalition of area mayors and chambers, will be held from 8:30 a.m. to noon April 27 at the Expo Square, Central Park Hall.

Officials hope to draw 500 to 700 participants. Registration can be done online at www.tulsaworld.com/envisionsummit

For the past couple of years, this area coalition has made site visits to Louisville, Ky., and Indianapolis to gather best practices on how those cities successfully transformed their regions.

“What we have realized from these visits is that we are much stronger and can have greater impact if we operate as a region versus our independent cities and towns,” Frank said.

“The spirit of cooperation really benefits all of us, and we are very solid in our commitment together to do that,” she said.

County Commissioner Karen Keith agreed, saying “once we all got out of our silos it all started making real sense. Now, we need the public to help create a road map.”

Keith said the only way to have success is to have everyone on board.

“If you are in a rowboat and your leader is in the front trying to steer it alone, you’re going to go in circles. You have to have everyone rowing in the same direction. It’s vital,” she said. “Look what we accomplished with Vision 2025.”

Keith said she is confident the summit will provide the collaborative process everyone wants.

Gerald Clancy, president of OU-Tulsa and past Tulsa Metro Chamber chairman, will lead the summit. Former Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell will be a keynote speaker.

The summit will focus on gathering public input on five areas: defining a regional vision; creating a regional brand; identifying government collaborations; improving job retention and growth, and discussing projects for the next Vision package.

Frank said there may be some ideas that come out of the summit that could be initiated as early as this year and over the next few years, as well as long-term initiatives.

“This is an organic process with nothing preconceived,” Frank said. “We want to go into this with really fresh ideas.”

Frank and Keith agree one of the first steps is for the region to figure out “who we are.”

Recent research indicated the perception of the region was “beige,” Frank said.

“So, what it boils down to is that there is no perception of Tulsa or the surrounding area,” Frank said. “We need to change that because what we are trying to do is appeal on a national and global level so people are thinking about us and want to have their meetings here and want to grow their businesses here.”

Keith said one of the areas that Louisville and Indianapolis capitalized on was government collaborations, “doing everything they could to work together and use all of the tax dollars to their fullest.”

Tulsa already has begun collaborative efforts with the county and the Broken Arrow Fire Department.

Keith said,”If we can maximize on efficiencies in the delivery of our core services, that will free up dollars we as a region could use to create things that will make a difference in our quality of life and increase our sales tax base.”

Keith and Frank also said it is time to begin the discussion of life after Vision 2025, a county sales tax that ends in 2017 and has funded $530 million in area projects. What does an extension of a Vision initiative look like?

“We want people to start dreaming a little bit on what projects they see will impact the area,” Frank said.

Keith said she urges the younger residents to attend the summit and submit their ideas because “they are the one who are going to benefit the most from the decisions we make today.”

For more information on the enVision Summit, call the Tulsa Metro Chamber at 918-585-1201.

Source: Tulsa World, April 15, 2012