Along with Warren Ross of the Ross Group, the Tulsa mayor discussed the city’s humble beginnings and potential for future growth.
The Tulsa Thought Initiative brought Mayor G.T. Bynum to speak in Tyrrell Hall on the topic of developing Tulsa on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. The event was entitled “Tulsa Tomorrow.”
Stephen McDonald, a member of the new organization, described what the Tulsa Thought Initiative is. “The Tulsa Thought Initiative creates a space where students can ask big questions that matter and are shaping our local communities.”
McDonald said that the idea for the organization was conceived when McDonald was talking with its now-president, Austin Cotner.“[We] got to talking… and we wanted to create a space to have a dialogue on a wide range of topics.”
McDonald believes that it is important to bring speakers for the engineers and the musicians, for example, but there is a need to invite important figures to speak on topics that affect TU students as Tulsans, and people in general.
“We went to Mayor Bynum asking to have an event looking at how Tulsa has had some growth.”
Bynum began his discussion with a brief history of Tulsa. Though initially just one of the many cities in northeast Oklahoma, Tulsa flourished and became the largest one in the region.
“Downtown started as a bend in the river,” he said, going on to talk about how trade routes and general geography made Tulsa’s location a prime spot for economic growth. He also mentioned that the one thing that once kept Tulsa from becoming a larger city was its lack of a public school. Eventually, the population demanded one.
“Oil was found in Glenpool,” he said, adding that over the course of the 20th century, the greater Tulsa area grew by “400,000 people.”
He used the early success of Tulsa to segue into a hot topic of discussion in those days and the present: philanthropy. “People wanted to come here to build a city they could brag to their friends back home about,” Bynum said.
And with the callback to the familiar old days when some of the largest oil barons in the world built things in Tulsa out of pocket, Bynum was ready to talk about today.
He began by explaining why he wants to improve Tulsa. “I didn’t want my kids to be the first Tulsans to grow up expecting less,” he said.
Bynum touched on improvements in the city such as the Gathering Place that were built largely through philanthropic means. Afterward, he claimed there is still more to do.
He stated his goal is to keep making Tulsa competitive with the gleaming metropolises of the U.S. instead of “managing the decline of our city.”
Also on the stage was Ross Group President Warren Ross, who handles much of the development of Tulsa. Ross spoke at length affirming Bynum’s stances on Tulsa, also adding that the city has a history of fast expansion, and it is time again for that ambition.
Both Bynum and Ross mentioned the recent competitiveness of local cities, such as when Broken Arrow got the Bass Pro Shops or Owasso population growth.
But Mayor Bynum claims he wants to make Tulsa globally competitive in infrastructure, culture, tourist attractions and economic strength. He believes Tulsa has bigger fish to fry than Oklahoma City, Broken Arrow and Owasso.
Given that economic growth is not uncommon in Tulsa as much as it is uneven, a member of the audience asked the question about the disparity between North and South Tulsa.
“We used to be terrible about that,” Bynum said, but indicated that will change.
“Most of North Tulsa is pretty rural,” he said, adding that measures will be made to “draw development into North Tulsa.” He mentioned QuikTrip and Amazon as examples of companies that he believes will develop the area and provide jobs.
About the University of Tulsa, Mayor Bynum said, “This is a place that all of you can make a difference in this community.” He also pointed out the high number of alumni on his own staff.
The Tulsa Thought Initiative plans on having two to three events a semester, and have scheduled their next event for Mar. 7. Jill Webb and Kris Steele will come to TU to speak on the topic of the topic is Criminal Justice Reform.