By Renae Reints
July 16, 2018

The Trump administration’s trade war is heating up, and while the president frames himself as a defender of American manufacturers, these U.S. laborers are the ones hurting from increased tariffs. Industry associations across multiple sectors estimate that thousands of jobs could be lost due to Trump’s trade war.

The city of Tulsa, Okla. aims to directly combat this with the construction of a new business park. In a partnership with the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF), the city is offering a $10 million incentive to ease infrastructure and development costs for manufacturers at the new Peoria-Mohawk Business Park.

“GKFF’s goal is to bring more than 1,000 technical skilled jobs that pay a sustainable living wage in order to provide economic opportunity for the historically under-served, adjacent North Tulsa community,” says Josh Miller, GKFF program officer.

Planning for the 117-acre business park began in 2012—years before today’s trade war could have been imagined. Once the land was fully zoned and permitted for manufacturer use, the city began marketing to prospective businesses in 2016.

“Most of the interest in the park has come from light to medium manufacturing industries,” says Miller. “The prospective companies expressing interest in the sit so far have had needs around machining, welding, CNC operation, and assembly.”

Specifically, the companies with interest work in fields around “industrial HVAC and venting equipment, construction equipment, power hydraulic equipment, and aerospace components,” Miller states.

In the early 1900s, Tulsa became known as the “oil capital of the world,” with more than 100 oil companies operating at the Glenn Pool oilfield just two years after its discovery. While the oil industry remains, Tulsa’s economy has diversified since then, expanding into manufacturing and construction.

Still, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that $208 million Oklahoma exports are at risk due to Trump’s trade war. A Washington Post report states 5.1 million jobs in manufacturing industries are potentially at risk nationwide due to the steel and aluminum tariffs imposed earlier this year.

With these challenges, the city of Tulsa and GKFF have aimed to make manufacturing growth in the city as easy as possible. In addition to the $10 million incentive, the city is offering workforce training programs through Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology (OSUIT), Tulsa Tech, and Tulsa Community WorkAdvance.

“Obviously, when the project kicked off five years ago, the tariff issue was unforeseen,” says Miller. “However, the hope is the site’s attractive and unique package of incentives would offset any obstacles the tariffs might pose.”

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