Owasso city and business officials joined dozens of other Tulsa-area leaders in the 2018 Tulsa Regional Chamber Intercity Visit to Columbus, Ohio, earlier this month.
Owasso Chamber of Commerce President Gary Akin, Owasso Economic Director Chelsea Levo-Feary and Dr. Kathy Campbell with Medicap Pharmacy took part in the 9th annual event, held Oct. 9-11.
Every October, the Tulsa Regional Chamber hosts its Intercity Visit at a different major metropolitan area, giving participants an opportunity to gather ideas and insights from cities overcoming challenges similar to Tulsa.
This year, the Chamber selected Columbus based on its strong, diverse economy and success in talent attraction. A key focus for the trip was education and workforce, as well as diversity and inclusion, arena districts and entrepreneurship.
Levo-Feary, who has attended nearly every Intercity Visit, said she gleaned a lot from this trip, as it shed more light on the numerous similarities between Columbus and Tulsa.
“They’re doing some really cool things there, so I feel like everything that we were able to witness and what we saw there is tangible for Tulsa,” she said. “All of that (was) like, ‘OK great, this is how a very comparable city has done this; Tulsa can do this too.’”
Those parallels were highlighted across several outlets, which included: a tour of downtown Columbus, the Arena District, Ohio Stadium at Ohio State University, Scioto Mile riverfront development, Columbus Idea Foundry and Center of Science and Industry, along with various discussion panels at the Columbus Convention Center.
Levo-Feary’s focus stretched beyond the likening qualities of Columbus and Tulsa, however. She wanted to ultimately find a close connection between the state capital and her hometown of Owasso in which she serves.
That commonality came with Dublin, a suburb of Columbus located about 20 miles northwest of the city. She referred to Dublin as a “very comparable suburb to Owasso” in its demographic, proximity to Columbus and regional partnerships.
Much like Owasso’s close collaboration with Tulsa, Dublin is equally strategic in sharing resources with Columbus to continually enhance the local workforce and benefit the region as a whole.
“It’s always good to get outside of your community to take a look at best practices in other communities,” Levo-Feary said. “That’s actually something that we’re actively working on here in Owasso, starting the Workforce Owasso program.”
Workforce Owasso, part of the City’s Economic Development Strategic Plan launched in June 2017, serves as a network of employers, resources and service providers for recruiting and retaining an excellent workforce.
One endeavor Levo-Feary is pushing through Workforce Owasso is an encore entrepreneurship program for retired professionals who are looking to return to the jobsite. She said seeking Dublin’s input on the process, and vice versa, will benefit all involved.
“We can actually share some ideas on how we’re putting those programs together,” she said. “And because we are so similar … the ideas that we will be able to share are relevant, and we can actually help each other without being in competition with each other.”
Akin echoed Levo-Feary’s comments, stating, “The continued desired of our regional leaders to learn from other mega regions on how they have accomplished their goals and be where they are today … I think we saw that again this time, that the commonality is ‘regions grow.’”
Campbell added that her experiences from the trip left her proud of the progress Owasso and Tulsa are making, especially in light of what she calls a “shared forward-thinking approach” with the Columbus region.
“We, too, are coming together and setting the course for great investment and a great future,” Campbell said. “We are on the right track. Can’t wait to see what the next 10 years bring.”