Newly re-elected Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett turns eyes to local economy, job creation

TULSA - Less than 24 hours after his 10-point victory over Kathy Taylor, Mayor Dewey Bartlett turned his focus toward growing the local economy and creating more jobs in the city of Tulsa.

Bartlett says the economic climate is ripe for growth and says he believes the city is on the cusp of serious gains in the energy, manufacturing and maintenance sectors.

In terms of manufacturing and maintenance, Bartlett says the settlement reached between the Department of Justice and U.S. Airways and American Airlines will provide the opportunity for hundreds of more planes to be maintained here.

Increased opportunities could lead the way for greater job sustainability and potential growth, he says.

"U.S. Airways has a couple hundred planes that they need to be maintained and they're wanting to maintain them in-house, which will be in Tulsa, Okla. So I think there's an opportunity there for us," he said.

Bartlett says even greater growth will come from the energy sector with increased demand for compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas.

Bartlett believes companies across the nation paid special attention to Tulsa's mayoral election. He says his own expertise in the oil and gas industry will allow growth locally.

"We have seen a tremendous amount of exposure in the energy industry, and we're now starting to see several companies, whether they're exploration and production related, manufacturing, or even in the education side of things, are starting to grow in Tulsa," he said.

Bartlett says the growth of those companies will attract others like them here, where an already trained workforce exists.

More than $900 million in capital improvements were also approved via ballot Tuesday, which should theoretically only increase the city's attractiveness to outside companies. 

The package, known as Improve Our Tulsa, was actually broken into two parts. Proposition 2, which extends the 1.1 percent sales tax to cover capital improvements expenses, passed 70 percent to 30 percent Tuesday night.

Prop 2 will generate $536.7 million.

Proposition 3 provides $335 million in bonds for the purpose of building, rebuilding, improving and repairing city streets and bridges.

The sales tax money, according to the City of Tulsa, will first be available July 1, 2014.

In July, $80 million will become available for capital improvements projects and will be a part of the budget constructed by Bartlett and city council. 

That $80 million figure will incrementally grow over the course of the extension, which lasts until June 30, 2021.

The city will begin seeing bond money either late 2014 or early 2015. The first bond will be worth $70 million.

District 8 City Councilor Phil Lakin, like District 9 City Councilor G.T. Bynum, was surprised by the resounding passage of the propositions. Both say they anticipated Improve Our Tulsa would pass, but were both overwhelmed by the amount of support for the measures.

Lakin says that between now and the end of the year, council and groups benefiting from capital improvements derived from sales tax dollars will meet to determine a priority list.

"There's $560 million that has to be raised, but it comes in increments of $80 million a year. So we just have to prioritize that well and make sure that we're meeting the greatest needs first," he said.

Until that list is complete, it's unclear which projects will get the first shot at sales tax dollars. 

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