Tulsa Could Be Impacted By Auto Industry

Thursday, December 4th 2008, 4:58 pm
By: News On 6

By Dan Bewley, News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Tulsa may seem far removed from the proceedings in Washington, but analysts say we're just as connected to the auto industry as any other place.

As executives for Chrysler, General Motors and Ford go before Congress, major players in the auto industry in Tulsa are watching closely.

At stake is a multi-million dollar piece of Green Country's economic pie.

"I have 175 employees that work directly for us and then you look at suppliers and vendors that all of the dealers have," said Bill Knight of Bill Knight Ford.

Knight owns three car dealerships in Tulsa. Concerned is how he describes the last few weeks as the leaders of the Chrysler, GM and Ford ask congress for up to $34 billion in federal aid.

"The survivability of those three companies are going to be critical for our ability as a country to come out of the economic issues that we've had," said Knight.

If the Big Three fall, analysts say Tulsa would be right there in ripple effect, this despite no manufacturing plants or direct suppliers to the auto industry in this part of the state.

Bob Ball is an economist with the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce. He gave The News On 6 a snapshot of how the auto industry shapes the Tulsa economy.

Every year, he says, the dealers sell more than $750 million in new cars alone.

The industry, mostly through the service of those cars, supports 1,700 jobs and feed an $84 million payroll.

Ball says if any of the Big Three go under those jobs and that tax base could fade away. It would also mean, he says, fewer dealerships in Green Country which could force prices to rise. 

"Everyone can understand that if you've got more dealers out there, more variety to choose from basically that competition is good for the consumer," said Ball.

Knight's biggest concern is with Ford, but he says Tulsa needs all three automakers to stay on their feet.

"For the good of the American economy going forward the best thing that can happen is that all three survive and flourish going into the future," said Knight.

The Big Three directly employ 242,000 people and economists estimated close to three million indirectly across the country.