County leaders pair Vision2 with future of aerospace
BY ZACK STOYCOFF World Staff Writer
Thursday, September 13, 2012
9/13/12 at 4:15 AM
Read more about the proposal and the status of Vision 2025 projects.
Broken Arrow: Read previous stories related to Broken Arrow and get contact information for Broken Arrow officials.
BROKEN ARROW - Rejecting the Vision2 sales-tax extension could mark the beginning of the end for Tulsa County's aerospace industry, a co-chairman of the proposal's campaign said Wednesday.
The $748.8 million proposal would extend the 0.6 percent Vision 2025 sales tax rate through 2029. One of its two packages allocates $254.4 million to upgrade public-owned industrial sites and equipment at the Tulsa International Airport and another $52.9 million for job-creation incentives.
The proposal is set for a countywide vote Nov. 6.
"I'm convinced that if we don't invest in these facilities, we will lose jobs and that's not just in Tulsa - that's in the entire county," Arvest CEO Don Walker said at a Broken Arrow Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
"I'm convinced that if we thumb our noses at the improvements at the airport, we would see the beginning of the end for the aerospace industry in Tulsa County."
The facilities - used by American Airlines, Spirit AeroSystems and IC Bus - are key parts of an economic infrastructure that supports 15,000 jobs in and near the airport, he said.
The aircraft hangars and engine-testing rooms at the airport are too small for the next generation of planes and engines, and their electrical systems can't handle the voltage of even today's machinery, he said.
In some cases, the facilities have gone decades without significant improvements, he said.
"We're preparing the buildings for another 50 years," he said. "If we leave them alone, those companies, in my opinion, won't be there."
Vision2 funds would replace hangars' aging roofs and other facilities' electrical systems, as well as improve an airport tarmac and other infrastructure, Walker said.
The job-creation incentives would be managed by a board of county and municipal officials that would spend them to entice companies bringing jobs with annual salaries of at least $50,000, he said.
Both elements are key to keeping Tulsa competitive - particularly in the aerospace industry, he said.
"When people say we shouldn't be doing this for the aerospace industry, (I say) we have to do this for the aerospace industry," he said. "That industry is certainly one of the future, and in Tulsa County, we have such momentum and we don't want to give it up."
The largest share of the funds, about $200 million, would upgrade public-owned facilities and equipment for American Airlines, the airport's largest industrial tenant.
Walker said some potential voters mistakenly believe the money would be a "blank check" for the company. Others have asked why Tulsa County should support a company that is in the midst of bankruptcy, he said.
"Whether you agree or disagree with American Airlines, that company has spawned thousands of jobs," he said, adding that its airport maintenance base supports jobs throughout the area.
Tulsa City Councilor Blake Ewing has criticized Vision2's airport package, saying it doesn't include a plan for maintaining the upgraded facilities and that there aren't any assurances from airport tenants.
The second Vision2 package designates $361.9 million for quality-of-life improvements. The county and each of its cities would receive a portion and develop their own projects.
Original Print Headline: Leaders pair Vision2 with future of aerospace
Zack Stoycoff 918-581-8486