Tulsa “very much in this” to win Tesla truck plant


As county commissioners in Austin, Texas this week adopted millions in tax breaks to attract a $1.1 billion Tesla truck plant, officials and leaders in Tulsa believe they remain in the race for the decision to be made by Elon Musk.

But the Tulsa World reported this week, in the ongoing battle with Austin, Texas, to get a new Tesla factory, Tulsa’s biggest obstacle hasn’t been demographics or economics and has nothing to do with taxes, location or infrastructure.

By objective standards, including tax incentives that both cities have offered, Tulsa stacks up well against its rival for the new factory, according to state and local officials.

The challenge has been more subjective. Austin has spent decades promoting itself as an exciting place to live and work with a high quality of life.

“Tulsa hasn’t been as well-marketed or as well-branded,” said Sean Kouplen, Oklahoma’s secretary of commerce and workforce.

Tesla is “very talent-driven,” Kouplen said, meaning the company wants to choose a location where it knows it can recruit from thousands of highly talented engineers. That’s why Tulsa’s sales pitch has focused heavily on successful efforts to bring more young professionals to the city, including testimonials from newcomers who weren’t sure they would like Tulsa but now can’t imagine living anywhere else.

The message to Tesla has been “come see it, and you will love it,” Kouplen told the Tulsa World. “And every Tesla executive who has been here has loved it.”

While Kouplen didn’t mention names, that would seem to include Elon Musk himself, Tesla’s celebrity CEO who visited July 3 to see a proposed building site and meet face-to-face with Kouplen and Gov. Kevin Stitt.

Conversations with Tesla have continued since, Kouplen said. And Tulsa remains “very much in this,” he said.

In theory, the focus on young professionals should work to Tulsa’s advantage, because it’s exactly the kind of place that young professionals want, said Cullen Koger, creative director at the Bear Agency Group, an advertising firm that has been part of the effort to bring Tesla to Oklahoma.

“They want big-city amenities with small-city charm,” Koger said. “They want all the advantages of a big city — the museums and restaurants and attractions — without the problems of living in a big city.” 

The challenge, of course, is getting people outside of Oklahoma to realize that Tulsa is that kind of place. And they are beginning to realize it, Koger said, or Tulsa wouldn’t be going head-to-head with Austin right now.

“The attention from Tesla is only helping Tulsa get the word out more,” he said.

A decision could be imminent now that Austin has finalized an incentives package worth at least $14.7 million. Travis County officials approved the package this week despite opposition from Austin environmentalists and labor activists, who voiced concerns over wages and workplace safety.

Tulsa has offered similar incentives but has relied on existing statutes that didn’t require special approval, officials said. If Tesla chooses Tulsa, county commissioners may be asked to vote for additional incentives, officials said.

Source: Tulsa World

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