To further job creation in Rogers County, electric utility Public Service Company of Oklahoma plugged into some generosity on Thursday.
PSO announced that it was transferring 2,000 acres of its land at the Inola River-Rail site to the City of Tulsa-Rogers County Port Authority for economic development.
At a meeting of the Port Authority earlier in the day, board members voted to move forward with the deal.
Tissue manufacturing company Sofidel last year purchased 240 acres at PSO’s Inola River-Rail Site to build a $360 million facility. Scheduled to be completed by the end of the year, the 1.8 million-square-foot plant is expected to permanently employ 300 people and have an estimated annual economic impact of $100 million.
“We are thrilled to have come to an agreement with such a strong, incredible organization,” Peggy Simmons, PSO president and chief operating officer, said at a news conference in Inola.
The Sofidel project generated 800 construction jobs, and sales-tax collection for Inola increased more than 300% during the construction phase, she said.
“When you have an anchor tenant and someone that can speak to ‘Hey, this is a great site,’ and they are showing progress, that just speaks volumes for the potential for this region and for this area,” Simmons said.
The deal encompasses about 1,960 acres at the Inola site, a portion of which is adjacent to the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, which is 445 miles long and runs from the Tulsa Port of Catoosa to the Mississippi River. An additional 200 acres retained by PSO may be made available to the Port Authority for future purchase.
“There isn’t anything in this deal for PSO,” said Sean Kouplen, the state’s secretary of commerce and workforce development. “It’s not as if they have some big revenue grab on the back end. That’s not the case.
“This is for Oklahoma. This is for Rogers County. This is for this part of the world. It is tremendous and very, very selfless.”
A multimodal shipping complex, Tulsa Port of Catoosa has 70 companies that employ more than 3,200 people, said Steve Dowty, chairman of the Port Authority.
“It’s the biggest deal that this port has ever seen other than its opening (in 1971),” Port Authority board member Dewey Bartlett said following Thursday’s meeting. “(Sofidel) picked that tract because PSO was able to provide an extremely large tract of land that had access to various forms of transportation. They could not find something like that anywhere else in the United States, other than outside of Inola.
“Here we have almost 2,000 acres of land surrounding that. We will be in such a great position. This is a gold-star, red-letter day for our port and for northeast Oklahoma. We’re very fortunate that PSO had the vision and the confidence in us to operate this property properly and use it in a way that will provide a lot of new customers for PSO. There’s a win for them as well.”
Under terms of the PSO-Port Authority agreement, the authority will invest at least $3 million to develop rail and other infrastructure that will serve Sofidel and future tenants to enhance the long-term viability of the industrial park.
The deal also mandates that PSO will be the provider of electrical service for 99 years and that the authority and PSO jointly develop a master plan for the property and market it. The authority will bear the cost of due diligence, such as title work, surveys and environmental studies, according to the agreement.
“From my perspective, this is as historic a development as the original port,” Port Director David Yarbrough said Thursday. “We started with 2,000 acres and look what this board has done. Now, look at the opportunity ahead of us with 2,000 brand new acres.”
PSO has owned the Inola property for decades. In 2014, it began an 18-month site certification process and started marketing the location for high-impact economic development projects.
“Contiguous large tracts of land near metropolitan areas are hard to find nationwide,” Yarbrough said. “That’s why Sofidel is in Oklahoma in the Tulsa metro area. This property gives this board the flexibility to go after other huge tenants that bring huge economic benefits and impact to the region.”