|Updated: 8/13/2012 2:59 pm
||Published: 8/09/2012 5:34 pm
On Monday, the Tulsa County Commission voted in favor of putting a $747.9 bond vote on the November ballot.
Tulsa County and city leaders have big plans to bring in big business, with a new vision for the future similar to the Vision2025 bond package.
With most of the 32 projects from the $885 million Vision2025 package voters approved in 2003 complete or almost complete, Vision2 is designed to keep Tulsa County moving forward.
Vision2 is a $747.9 million 13-year extension to the Vision2025 package. The main goal of Vision2 is to maintain jobs currently in the Tulsa area and attract new businesses and jobs to the area.
Roughly $386 million of Vision2 would be designated for economic development, including about $250 million going for facility upgrades and improvements at Tulsa International Airport, and $50 million in "deal-closing" incentives to new businesses considering moving into the area.
The other $361.9 million would be designated for quality of life improvements in the 10 cities and towns in Tulsa County. The county itself would also get a portion of the money. Those funds would be divided based on population.
But there are concerns about the economic development portion of the package. In the Vision2025 package $22.3 million was used on facility upgrades and improvements at the American Airlines maintenance base at TIA. Now that American Airlines plans to lay off more than 1,000 workers, that investment is now viewed as a bust. That has many wondering if the Vision2 plans are risky gamble with tax dollars.
"I work downtown and I think it's been great...for the downtown area for sure, you know, with the BOK being built," David Stewart, a Broken Arrow resident and Vision2 supporter, said.
Stewart was a big fan of Vision2025. He thinks most of it gave the area a huge return on investment. The exception, of course, being the seemingly wasted American Airlines facility improvement funds. However, he's willing to forget that backfired project.
"You can't hit 1,000 every time," Stewart said.
Stewart is still ready to throw hundreds of millions of dollars into improvements for other buildings and facilities at the airport.
Vision2 campaign co-chairman Don Walker said the improvements are badly needed.
"Those facilities were built during World War Two," Walker said. "So they're 70 years old. They're in terrible condition."
Walker admits the American Airlines improvement funds ended up being a disappointment, but he says the Vision2 investment is absolutely necessary for Tulsa to compete with other cities.
"If we don't do it today someone else will attract those employees, those industries, those aerospace jobs to another community," he said.
Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett said the Vision2 package is about maintaining Tulsa's standing as the premier aerospace industry leader.
"We want to make certain that our airport has the ability to service and maintain any airplane that flies in any airline in this world," Bartlett said. "And we want them to come to Tulsa."
Stewart agrees on the importance of maintaining the aerospace industry in Tulsa and attracting more jobs to the area. He says despite there being no guarantee a bigger investment in aerospace jobs will work out better than the $22.3 million for American Airlines in Vision2025, he still thinks the potential payoff is big enough that the Tulsa area needs to take the gamble.
"Not everything pans out, but I think for the most part it has, and still may in the future," he said.
Vision2 would simply extend the 0.6 percent sales tax from Vision2025, which is set to expire at the end of 2016, until the end of 2029. No new taxes would be created under the proposal.