Clay Holk’s resume is dotted with destinations such as Harvard Kennedy School, Georgetown University and Northwestern University.
But his heart was attracted to an Oklahoman.
“I fell in love with a Tulsa girl, and then I fell in love with Tulsa,” Holk, 33, said of Jen Smith, his fiancée, and the city he now calls home.
Holk met Smith, originally from Mounds, at Harvard, and the pair are getting married in March. On Sept. 30, he begins his new job in the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, serving as senior policy adviser for small business, entrepreneurship and innovation.
“I’ve lived in a lot of different cities,” Holk said by phone. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt a city that had as strong a sense of civic pride as Tulsa. That really was what always stayed with me.”
The position was created to provide strategic policy analysis and leadership as the city works to determine how it can best support, develop and expand businesses to build a more innovation-based economy in the region.
“From Black Wall Street to the Oil Capital of the World, from the birth of the aerospace industry to QuikTrip and Bama and Williams — Tulsa is a city built by entrepreneurs,” Mayor G.T. Bynum said in a statement. “As we have gone about building the City of Tulsa’s economic development team, we recognized that a key missing piece was a staff member dedicated to supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs.
“We understand that in order for Tulsa to become a world-class city, we must do far more to ensure Tulsans are able to launch and grow businesses. I am excited for Clay to take on this important work as we make Tulsa a 21st Century city of opportunity for everyone.”
Holk will serve as the dedicated point of contact for small businesses and entrepreneurs in Tulsa and also will serve as the city’s chief liaison and representative with key partners serving small businesses and entrepreneurs.
“Tulsa already really has the makings of a great entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Holk said. “One of my main goals is to ensure that the city really is as effective a partner as we can possibly be in building out that ecosystem.”
Originally from Magnolia Springs, Alabama, Holk served as an armor officer in the Army. He worked in strategy and analytics at the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C., and at JPMorgan Chase in New York City.
In 2008, Holk received his bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University, where he studied international relations.
Holk then received a master of public policy degree from Harvard Kennedy School. His thesis on affordable housing policy in Tulsa was awarded the Taubman Center Prize for Outstanding Research on Urban Issues. Currently, he is pursuing a master’s of business administration at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
“Tulsa’s future economic growth undoubtedly hinges upon our ability to create an ecosystem in which small businesses, entrepreneurs and innovators are encouraged to test ideas, take risks and grow businesses,” Chief of Economic Development Kian Kamas said. “We recognize that the Mayor’s Office and the city can play a unique role in shaping this ecosystem — whether through direct efforts like the city’s contracting and purchasing processes or through policy and advocacy at the local, state and federal level.”
In the city’s Gallup CitiVoice Index survey, 58 percent of Tulsans said Tulsa was a good place to start a business, and 64 percent of self-employed residents said Tulsa was a good place to start a business because of its robust entrepreneurial environment.
“We are excited for Clay to join a growing regional support system for small businesses and entrepreneurs and are committed to ensuring the city deploys its resources in a meaningful way to support the growth of the innovators who will shape the future of Tulsa’s economy,” Kamas said.
Tulsa Police Sgt. Jennifer Murphy talks about the Tulsa Police new reading program and school supply handout at the Darlington Apartments.