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Tulsa's Chamber looks to the future

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Tulsa’s effort to bring new business to town. After 9-11, Tulsa lost more than 20,000 jobs. Tulsa has bounced back some, but some big employers, like American Airlines, are still on shaky ground.

Tuesday, the Tulsa Area Chamber of Commerce announced a new economic development fund, paid for with private dollars. As News on 6 business reporter Steve Berg explains, they want to find new jobs and to stop losing any more old ones.

Dan Simpson has looked at three years worth of want ads and still can't find a job like the one he had at WorldCom. "What I found in Tulsa is that it's very hard to start again." Simpson wonders how the city will replace the WorldCom's and the Citgo's and the other good-paying companies that have fallen by the wayside. "We're a city of call centers; we’re a city of collection agencies, the great jobs that made Tulsa what it is have gone away."

Tulsa Area Chamber of Commerce president Tom Maxwell: "Economic development today is a very competitive, very complex business." The chamber's own budge has been dwindling, so they're raising $9-million in private money for an economic development fund called Tulsa's Future.

And they're already halfway there. "Have not had a single person say no." They say they'll be targeting sectors where Tulsa has historically done well, like aerospace, telecommunications and manufacturing. And they say face-to-face contact is still the best way to recruit and retain business. Stan Lybarger with Tulsa’s Future Committee: "So we're looking for a proven performer to lead the effort here in Tulsa." It might surprise you in a city the size of Tulsa, but they say they haven't had the number of people they need out there selling the city.

Tom Maxwell: "Competing cities around the country have this kind of fund and we have not, to this point, and with the competitive nature there is today, we need that." The chamber's goal, 10,000 jobs and just as important perhaps, an average salary of $45,000.

Dan Simpson: "$40,000 is a living wage, $12 an hour is not a living wage, it's a part-time job. Without something happening soon, I feel like Tulsa is going to dry up."

The Tulsa Future Fund won't be giving money directly to companies as a financial incentive, but they say there may be room to help with company's moving expenses and things of that nature.
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