Tulsa’s push to become the cybersecurity hub of the nation, unlikely to succeed

The logic of the plan is sound, but Tulsa just lacks what bigger cities can bring to the table.

Surprise! Clancy wants to make Tulsa a cybersec Mecca! While others might remark on how the TU bachelor programs in cybersecurity were created without faculty senate approval and how that could unintentionally affect accreditation, I am more interested in the possibility of this whole shindig working. For the uninitiated, one of President Clancy’s primary goals as president of TU is to make Tulsa more relevant in the grand scheme of American economics. Considering that Oklahoma lacks many of the geographic features that would help with economic development, namely an ocean and, you know, being in the middle of nowhere, one can reasonably doubt his dream. Clancy wants to emulate the great port cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City, but while those cities focus on movie making, technological innovation and high value stock exchanges, Clancy wants Tulsa to grow into a cybersecurity hotspot.

Rumors relating to this venture have circulated in Tulsa for several years, with hints and various statements claiming that Clancy is currently courting the United States Departments of Justice and Homeland Security for lucrative cybersec contracts, as well as the potential development of TU property on Sixth Street with the help of the George Kaiser Foundation.

Oddly enough, I agree with the idea. Tulsa cannot adequately compete with huge coastal cities like New York City or Hollywood; Tulsa simply cannot enter into a capitalist clash over an already established field. Cybersecurity, while part of a booming internet craze over the past two decades, does not have a de facto home yet. The closest thing to a cybercenter is Minneapolis, Minnesota, where a cybersecurity summit is held annually. Somewhere like Dallas also seems to be looking into the cybersecurity race, but Tulsa has a real chance, depending on how the contracts pan out, to be the place to be for cybersec. With cities scrambling to be the first to the pie, Tulsa has a real chance of zooming out ahead of them, claiming a right as an important industry capital.
However, even though I agree with the general thrust of Clancy’s idea, I fail to see how it would succeed.

Let’s take a little historical look at globalization. Now, the g-word is a little occult in certain circles, because it lacks a real, concrete definition, but, for the purposes of this article, simply think of it as allowing distant groups to work together. When globalization and modernization ballooned after the birth of the internet, many economists anticipated a huge boom in any worktype that could be supported by instant communication. The belief was that one no longer needed to work in a stationary company headquarters ⁠— that they could instead work from home through the power of the web. However, as time passed, economists realized that for all the wonderful innovations the internet brought, individuals in like fields still grouped up, moving together into a segmented area. Think of those cities mentioned earlier. With the power of instant communication, why do script writers still live in expensive Hollywood suburbs? Who wants to pay to live in Manhattan as a stockbroker? Can’t the internet allow each of the workers to reside elsewhere? Bay area web developers could still sit in the comfort of their mother’s basement, but choose to live in the, again, overwhelmingly expensive San Francisco peninsula.

Because they still need that human contact.

That’s the answer that is widely accepted; there is something about being near one’s peers, teachers and bosses that ignites the competitive, industrious spirit. It simply works. Humans need real, physical human contact. Of course, in this situation Clancy has no real competition, but Tulsa is far from the centers of power necessary for this specialization. If he’s courting the U.S. Federal Government, why wouldn’t the Feds choose to send their contracts to Arlington or somewhere close to Washington D.C.? The linchpin behind the criticism of globalization is that humanity is not purely rational. Certain industries need to be in certain places near certain other industries. Creating one’s own economic center does not work if one cannot draw the industries necessary to create a self-sufficient supply chain. For the federal government specifically, wouldn’t senators and representatives want to be near the guys behind the keyboards? It would make for easier conversations and allow secure discussions without possibly compromised tech. And, we all know how much politicians love keeping people under their thumb.
It’s a bold strategy. Let’s see if it pays off.

Post Author: Adam Walsh