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City Economic Development Commission Looks to Step Up Its Game

Matt Trotter

After its hiatus ended earlier this year, the City of Tulsa Economic Development Commission has big plans.

By law, the commission oversees 38.5 percent of hotel and motel tax revenue. Commission Chairman Elliot Nelson said 34 percent passes straight through to the convention and visitors bureau, which said it needs more funding.

"It's been a long time since we had any oversight of that 34 percent, where it's being spent. So, there's going to be some efforts there to get some more clarity on how we're spending our money currently and how that new investment will look going forward," Nelson said, adding he doesn't doubt the bureau is underfunded.

Since starting back up, the commission has built a comprehensive map of city-owned real estate.

"And that's not just the City of Tulsa but also any authority, board or commission that controls assets. How do we best use those? And look at some best practices from other cities on how they've used their real estate assets as leverage to spur economic development," Nelson said.

The commission has also identified a gap in efforts between encouraging new, local startups and trying to recruit big companies that will invest millions of dollars and create hundreds of jobs.

"We have a lot of efforts around recruiting big businesses here that can create jobs, but we have very little in the way of telling our startup businesses or small and medium-size businesses how they can grow here," Nelson said.

The Economic Development Commission has a retreat next month to work on those ideas.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.