Tulsa 2025 – The Power of Vision
By Glen Hiemstra, 2003
In the past two years while speaking to audiences in the United States, and even in England and Costa Rica, I have noted what I interpreted as a desire for a new vision of the 21st Century. For obvious reasons, this has been especially true in the United States, where a here-to-fore mostly positive and optimistic image of the future has been replaced by one that ranges from skeptical to fearful. Yet, when audiences gather and are offered an opportunity to think for a few minutes in a positive way about the future, a yearning seems palpable.
“In the past two years while speaking to audiences in the United States, and even in England and Costa Rica, I have noted what I interpreted as a desire for a new vision of the 21st Century.”
I had just such an experience a little over a year ago in Tulsa, Oklahoma. For those not familiar with Tulsa this is a substantial city, which for decades had been made vibrant by the local oil economy. In the 1980’s and into the 1990’s, the city had decayed, as the oil business in its region had suffered. In fact, were you to visit Tulsa you would be struck by a large central city that seems surprisingly deserted.
In 2002 the city elected a new Mayor, Bill LaFortune, who among other things promised to convene a city-wide ‘Vision Summit’ within his first 100 days. On the 100th day, July 9, 2002, a summit was convened, in the Tulsa Convention Center. I was asked to provide a kick-off Keynote for the summit, and to assist in the design. Also assisting was the Urban Land Institute. My role was small, but the summit was not.
As I worked with the local Council of Governments (INCOG), I learned that they hoped to attract about 200 participants, mostly via invitation but also through advertising an open public gathering. As the day approached, the anticipated number climbed and climbed, until more than 700 were expected. Then, some 1100 people appeared at the door, $40 in hand for the entrance fee. Organizers scrambled to add tables, chairs, refreshments. It was amazing.
For a full day, the participants worked, beginning to tease out a vision for Tulsa 2025. I left impressed at the spirit and energy, and felt that this city vision project had a chance to make a difference.
What a difference it made. In just over a year, through the work of countless committees and volunteers, a ballot measure was crafted that would raise the city sales tax by one penny for the next 13 years, to accomplish community development initiatives in four areas:
- $350 million (40% of total) will be awarded in various economic development incentives to the Boeing Company should they decide to build their next airplane in Tulsa. (If the decision is no, this part of the tax increase does not go into effect).
- $22 million (2.5% of total) in capital improvements aimed at keeping American Airline maintenance facilities in Tulsa.
- $350 million (40% of total) for economic development, education, health care and event facilities, such as a biotech education facility, modernizing the convention center, and purchasing instructional material for all Tulsa public schools.
- $150 million (17.5% of total) for a variety of community enrichment and capital projects including parks, trails, community centers.
On September 9, 2003, voters went to the polls. Would anyone in the U.S., in these economic times, expect that voters would increase taxes? But Tulsa voters did just that, approving each of the four ballot measures by more than 60% !
It is an amazing story. You can track it by visiting a comprehensive website of the Tulsa World online.
Why did it work? The answer is undoubtedly to be found primarily in the hard work of lots of people. But there is something more. I see community after community fearful of the future, not daring to propose a comprehensive vision for a positive future. Instead, I see small defensive measures, aimed at fixing a traffic mess here, doing a single project there. Tulsa thought big and bold, and they won. It will be fascinating to track the changes to the city in the coming years.
Congratulations Tulsa 2025.
Glen Hiemstra is a futurist speaker, author, consultant, blogger, internet video host and Founder of Futurist.com. To arrange for a speech contact Futurist.com.