A legislative task force on Friday recommended approval of the city of Tulsa’s request for $50 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds for a massive sewage treatment infrastructure project designed to spur development economy in northeast Oklahoma.
The centerpiece of the proposal plans to provide sewerage services to a new industrial park and accompanying urban center to be built on Fair Oaks Ranch east of town.
The approximately 17,000-acre property, located south of the intersection of the Creek Turnpike and US 412, is the site where Tesla and other large companies considered building facilities but never chose.
“Our case to lawmakers has been: We have companies that really want to build facilities in Oklahoma on this site, but we just need to have the wastewater infrastructure,” Mayor GT Bynum said.
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The city views the proposed industrial park, which would be at least 2,000 acres, as a complement to other employment centers in the area, including the MidAmerica Industrial Park in Pryor and the ports of Catoosa and Inola.
“We’re really trying to build these clusters in northeast Oklahoma because there’s a proven private sector market for these types of spaces if communities are willing to do the legwork to get them ready to what companies are plugging into their facilities,” Bynum said. .
The recommendation of the Economic Development Working Group of the Joint Pandemic Relief Committee is now forwarded to the full Joint Committee. If approved there, it will be taken up by the Legislative Assembly, which is expected to meet in special session this fall.
Although city officials see the development of Fair Oaks Ranch as a vital part of the plan, they stress that the construction of increased sewage treatment and transportation capacity would extend well beyond the city limits. property and would benefit surrounding communities, such as Catoosa and Broken Arrow.
“While we are very focused on creating space for industrial growth in this part of our city, the reality is that building wastewater infrastructure in this area benefits the entire region,” Bynum said. .
Between 4,000 and 9,000 new jobs would be created through the economic development enabled by the infrastructure project, according to an economic impact study conducted by McKinsey & Co. earlier this year.
The overall impact of the project on the state’s gross domestic product would be between $1.3 billion and $3.6 billion, according to the study.
The City of Tulsa is negotiating with Fair Oaks Ranch LLC to establish a joint development agreement that is expected to be combined with a tax increment funding district.
Tulsa and Broken Arrow, meanwhile, are working with the owner to incorporate the project into their comprehensive plans, which would provide the framework for a more detailed master plan.
“The public interest from our perspective would be a 2,000-acre industrial site at a minimum,” Bynum said. “It’s a pretty massive site, and they (the owner) would have to agree to transfer it to the city as part of the development agreement. … The public would own the site where the industrial development would occur.
The city has already spent more than $70 million on infrastructure in the area, Bynum said, but sewage service remains the missing link.
Tackling that work and the associated costs would take the city 15 years or more, he said. If Tulsa is ultimately awarded the $50 million ARPA allocation, it will have four years to complete the project.
“That’s why we pursued this with the state,” Bynum said. “It allows us to move forward about 15 years and install this equipment so that we can be competitive for these jobs and economic growth right now.”
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