What would Joel do?


I mentioned previously that I'd like to see urban design and economic experts come in to evaluate the $877 million dollar package proposed by the Dialog / Visioning Leadership Team, so that their comments and feedback can be considered before the final package is sent to the people for a vote.

Joel Kotkin is one of those experts whose advice we should seek. Kotkin is a columnist on real estate and urban growth. He has coined the term "the new geography" to refer to the fact that companies engaged in the digital realm aren't tied to geography in the way that traditional industry is, and that changes the rules of the game as cities compete with one another.

Following his visit last May, Kotkin wrote about Tulsa in the Wall Street Journal. His last two paragraphs indicate the start of a consensus about where Tulsa should be headed:

Mr. Anderson and others believe the key to reviving Tulsa, and its downtown, lies in a sweeping revaluation of the city's assets and the adoption of a new, forward-looking development strategy. New leaders in the city like Messrs. Anderson and Coury, software entrepreneur Brent Johnson, and recently elected Mayor Bill LaFortune, largely agree that the city's fortune rests on two fronts. One is enhancing the physical, cultural and lifestyle endowments of the city. Critical to this process will be new housing both downtown and in nearby residential neighborhoods, redevelopment and environmental cleanup along the Arkansas River, as well as expanding the arts presence in the city. "The art deco and the arts won't save the city, but it's something other places don't have," argues Mayor LaFortune. "We have to build on our strengths."

This is the only way, they believe, to pave the way for success on the second major front-the transitioning of Tulsa from a large, company-dominated economy to one that attracts a plethora of smaller, entrepreneurial ventures, and the generally young workforce that powers them. "The critical issue now is to focus on the growth of small companies," Mr. Anderson believes. "To do that, we have to focus on the quality of life to get them here and keep them here."

Here are some of Kotkin's own thoughts, as reported in the Tulsa Whirled by Janet Pearson:

Tulsa's success will depend not so much on traditional economic development strategies, author and consultant Joel Kotkin said, but rather on the top asset of the technological age: human capital.

There will be no "magic bullet," no corporate white knight who will swoop in and save the city....

Tulsa has demonstrated its adaptability by rebounding from the energy bust, Kotkin noted, but its heavy reliance on telecom creates new challenges. But Tulsa can emerge from the Williams Communication Group Inc. bankruptcy crisis stronger than ever by coming up with a plan.

"You should react by saying not that the end is near, but how do we overcome it," Kotkin said. "Those in the telecom industry still have knowledge and skills. Find a way to redeploy them, either in existing companies or by starting new ones."

Tulsa should refine its ability to attract and retain well-educated and highly skilled workers or lose out to other communities with that edge, he said.

"That is the real key issue for Tulsa. . . . All the traditional ideas of economic development, particularly those used here in the Midwest, have failed. I really believe human capital will be much more important in the future, and Tulsa has much to offer in that regard."

But not enough at the moment. Tulsa has major deficiencies -- lack of educational resources, little venture capital, meager research activity, sparse entertainment offerings -- all of which hurt its attractiveness....

Kotkin believes Tulsa has "the base of a great downtown but you don't have a great downtown." But he doesn't think improved convention facilities are necessarily the answer.

"What's needed is for people to be able to walk, shop and do things downtown. A grassroots revival is needed, not a stadium."

And from a news story:

Kotkin's discouragement of cities seeking to build new arenas and convention centers drew some applause from the crowd.

"I think those leaders are living in the wrong decade," Kotkin said, referring to backers of expanded convention industry facilities....

Kotkin contends the convention industry has "played itself out."
"I can think of better things to do with the money," Kotkin said.

Think on these things, and ask, does any item in the current proposal address any of these issues? Or does it seem like our leaders are taking us as fast as possible in the opposite direction?

Broken links to newgeography.com UPDATED to joelkotkin.com 6/18/2005. And see a more recent entry -- a KFAQ radio interview with Kotkin.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 1, 2003 1:52 AM.

Are families important after all? was the previous entry in this blog.

The Tulsa Time Blues is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feed:
[What is this?]