Event Recap: Tulsa Metro Area Civic Panel - May 2020

Meet the Host & Panelists

Cassie Reese Tipton, CEC – Host/Moderator

Alexis Higgins, CEO - Tulsa International Airport

Anna America, Director for Parks and Recreation - City of Tulsa

John Feary, Executive Director - CIEDA

Kiam Kamas- Chief of Economic Development - City of Tulsa

Moderated Questions Session

Q1: Tell us about your current role – about your organization and what are your specific responsibilities.

AH: At Airport for 20 years, in the current role for 14 months. Main focus is recruiting airline activity to Tulsa. Oversee how the airport operates. Provide opportunity to continue to grow Tulsa aviation. Providing the necessary support, we can to our tenants.

KK: Manage a team of 10 people. Chief of Economic Development. Focus on helping to facilitate development in Tulsa. Lot of work with private development in Tulsa. Work with businesses who are considering moving to Tulsa.

JF: Focus is creation, attraction and enhancement of expansion of jobs in the manufacturing industry. We partner with Claremore and Rogers County. Lot of emphasis in talent development as we continue to bring in outside clients.

AA: Manage 135 parks and 8,000 acres, 94 playgrounds. Over the last couple of months, we’ve realized how important parks and open spaces are to help bring the kind of business and workers we want into our city.

Q2: How has your organization changed daily operations in response to the pandemic? Do you expect any of these changes will impact your organization in the long term?

JF: Realize that we don’t need as many meetings as we would normally have. Invested in Zoom. We can be just as resourceful from afar and get as much accomplished. We’ve been fortunate not to see a slowdown.

AH: Activity has decreased by 95-96%. Activity is picking up, but it’s night and day compared to what it used to be. We aren’t sure how long it will take for us to get back where we were before COVID. Construction in the terminal is continuing. Our staff has split shifts and we will be continued to move forward.

AA: It’s impacted operations quite a bit. We opened some spaces last Friday. Everything is kind of a wait and see approach. We have internal plans but we’re just waiting to see how that progresses. This has forced us to think in creative ways. We’ve done a lot more virtual programming. Some programming outside in the parks that gets kids ways to be involved. We’ve been able to take advantage of not having to work around people. Projects getting done.

KK: We’ve had a lot of larger projects already started and those projects are continuing to move forward. We did see a decline in permits issued, but it wasn’t that noticeable. It was between a 15-20 percent drop. The long-term concern is the drop-in oil prices and the impact that will have long term. We face some significant head wins.

Q3: Has your organization canceled or postponed any projects in response to the pandemic? If so, do you have any idea when they will go back online?

KK: Projects are still moving forward. We’re trying to get permits done quickly and back out the door. We don’t want to be the reason to slow down activity.

AA: We don’t have anything that is delayed. We’ve got lots of projects going on. More than a dozen playground and park projects that are in the design phase currently.

JF: The city is looking to spend several million dollars in infrastructure needs. No real slowdowns.

AH: Really taking a hit in our operating capital needs. Our

Q4: What’s next for your organization? Are there any upcoming projects or initiatives you are excited about?

AH: Excited for our Schwabb Hall project (Rental car, security checkpoint, etc.). Will be a new experience for customers when they come through the facility.

KK:  Excited to continue to work with American Airlines and moving that process forward. Massive projects like that just take a ton of work and lots of moving parts. We’re continuing work on redevelopment of PAC lot, which is planned to be redeveloped into a grocery store, mixed use development. Working with a developer on that project right know.

JF: We haven’t really slowed down a lot. Lots of RFPs coming through and we’re still responding to some projects. A couple of retail developments that have been wanted by the community. We’re excited about those developments. We’re looking towards those retail developers that are still spending money.

Q5: You all lead large, complex organizations. What is the best way for our membership to stay connected with you or who would be the most appropriate person on your team for us to connect with?

AA: I really appreciate people reaching out to me directly and passing along cool things or ask, ‘why aren’t we doing this in Tulsa?’

JF: $20 million spending in next couple of years on projects. City Engineer is the best contact person for those.

AH:  Email is the best. Airport contacts:

Frank Relja:  [email protected] - Director of Engineering and Planning OR Jonathan Gobbo - Director of Real Estate - [email protected]

KK: Engineering Services handles a lot of the big projects. If I can’t give you an answer, I’ll find an answer for you.

Q&A Session

Terminal changes – We already have designed our facility so that there are minimal touch points. We will continue to think about how to make everything as touch free as possible. The entire process for air travel will change. How long will that last?

April Sales Tax – They are down, about on par with what our expectations were, but still a dramatic drop. Another source of revenue that has taken a huge hit is our Hotel/Motel tax. We’ll be watching both revenue streams and trying to figure out “what does the rebound look like?” With the reopening, we could see some shifts to sale tax collections, but the overall hit will not be short term.

KK: We’re thinking internally about how not to slow projects. We’re trying to do as much as possible, if anything, to accelerate projects that we have going on.

JF: We’re kind of hoping to accelerate those projects. We’re in a fantastic position because we can go out and get 2% loans. Our budget will be affected, but not as much as the City of Tulsa. We hope to recover from that quickly.


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