A legislative working group on Friday recommended approving the city’s request for $50 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding for a massive sewage infrastructure project aimed at boosting economic development throughout northeastern Oklahoma.
At the heart of the proposal is the provision of sanitation services for a new industrial park and associated urban center to be built at Fair Oaks Ranch east of town.
The approximately 17,000-acre property, located south of the intersection of the Creek Turnpike and Highway 412, is the same site where Tesla and other major companies have considered building facilities.
Considered, but never committed.
“Our argument to lawmakers was, ‘We have companies that really want to build Oklahoma facilities on this site, but we just need the sewage infrastructure,'” Mayor GT Bynum said.
People also read…
The city views the proposed industrial park, which would be at least 2,000 acres, as a complement to other nearby employment centers such as those at the MidAmerica Industrial Park and the ports of Catoosa and Inola.
“We’re really trying to build these clusters in Northeast Oklahoma because there is a proven commercial market for these types of spaces if the communities are willing to do the groundwork so they’re ready for companies to connect their facilities,” said Bynum.
The recommendation of the Working Group on Economic Development of the Joint Committee on Pandemic Assistance now goes to the entire Joint Committee. If approved there, it would be taken up by the legislature, which is expected to meet in special session in the fall.
Although city officials view the development of Fair Oaks Ranch as a critical part of the plan, they emphasize that construction of expanded wastewater treatment and pumping capacity would extend well beyond the property’s boundaries and 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 expanding the wastewater infrastructure in this area will benefit the entire region,” Bynum said.
Between 4,000 and 9,000 new jobs would be created as a result of the economic development made possible by the infrastructure project, according to an economic impact study conducted by McKinsey & Company earlier this year.
The total 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 enter into a joint development agreement that is expected to be accompanied by a tax hike funding district.
Meanwhile, Tulsa and Broken Arrow are working with the property owner to incorporate the project into their overall plans, which would provide the framework for a more detailed master plan.
“The public interest from our perspective would be an industrial site of at least 2,000 acres,” Bynum said. “It’s quite a huge site and they (the landowner) would have to agree to hand it over to the city as part of the development contract. … The public would own the site where industrial development would take place.”
The city has already spent more than $70 million on infrastructure in the area where the proposed development site is located, Bynum said, but sanitation remains the missing link.
It would take the city 15 years or more to complete that task and the associated costs, he said. If Tulsa finally wins the $50 million ARPA grant, it would have four years to complete the project.
“That’s why we’ve been pursuing this from the state,” Bynum said. “It allows us to go ahead about 15 years and install these things so that we’re now competitive for these jobs and this economic growth.”