City Nation Place Americas is a gathering of enlightened CMOs, city planners, civic leaders and place makers in New York on June 14 and 15. As a presenting sponsor of the event, Resonance is catching up with some of our most esteemed speakers. This week, we’re talking to Ray Hoyt, President of VisitTulsa (as well as Tulsa Sports Commission, Tulsa Film, Music, Arts & the Culture Commission) about why U.S. Millennials are looking inward… and heading to Tulsa.

SPEAKER Ray Hoyt, President of VisitTulsa

SESSION The Millennial Mindset

By Chris Fair

Millennials have been identified as a key audience for talent attraction, tourism and economic development. But what defines the Millennials’ sense of place? What makes a city, state or nation attractive as a place to live, work and play? On Thursday, June 15, hear Ray speak about Tulsa’s youthful magnetism and its use of new research into this elusive audience.

Why are you excited to speak about “The Millennial Mindset” at the City Nation Place Americas summit on June 15?

When you think about the areas of the country that are attracting Millennials, Tulsa—or Oklahoma, for that matter—probably doesn’t come to mind for the vast majority of people. But surprisingly, for over a decade now, Tulsa has had one of the largest and most vibrant young professional organizations in the country. We were fortunate that we spotted the need for an organization that helps facilitate the engagement of young professionals fairly early on, which has helped Tulsa be far more prepared to engage this segment of the population as more and more Millennials enter and dominate the workforce.

A recent Apartment List study cited Tulsa as the ninth-most popular city in the country for relocating Millennials. Why is that the case?

In Tulsa you can have an incredibly low cost of living without sacrificing quality of life. Tulsa has a tremendous regional trail system for runners and cyclists, a music scene that has its own authentic sound like Austin and Nashville, and a corporate and philanthropic community that is committed to investing in assets like the Gathering Place, a $350+ million, 100-acre park on the banks of the Arkansas River that will open late this  year. This is coupled with housing rental and purchase prices that make it possible for the average 20- or 30-year-old to live in a beautiful downtown apartment, or purchase a mid-town bungalow, without being forced to live on Ramen noodles for the next few years.

Ray Hoyt, President of VisitTulsa

Ray Hoyt, President of VisitTulsa

What is Tulsa doing to build on this positive trend?

Last April, Tulsa passed a nearly $1-billion public tax package that includes several projects that are going to directly improve Tulsans’ quality of life. This will result in an investment of more than $200 million in the Arkansas River and surrounding amenities. The package also included Oklahoma’s first dedicated public-transit tax, which will fund our new Bus Rapid Transit system, as well as funding for things like the Gilcrease Museum—home to the world’s largest collection of western art—and a renovation of our downtown convention center. The Mayor of Tulsa announced earlier this spring that all of these projects will be funded and completed in the first five years of the package so that Tulsa voters and residents will really see the immediate impact of their investments.


What cities does Tulsa compete with for talent and residents?

Given our proximity to Texas, we’re always going to compete with cities like Dallas, Houston, and Austin for talent—they’re growing tremendously quickly, and the opportunity that those cities provide to Millennials is undeniable. Kansas City is also experiencing tremendous growth, and with the investments they have made in their downtown and river district, they are making the same value proposition argument that Tulsa does: low cost of living without sacrificing amenities.

What is Tulsa doing to attract not just Millennial residents and their families, but Millennial tourists, too?

We have been increasingly focused on building up Tulsa’s cultural scene, which we think is an area where Tulsa is already succeeding in attracting Millennial tourists. Tulsa undoubtedly has the best concert scene in the state: whether it’s arena acts like Lady Gaga performing at the BOK Center, or Jack White putting on a show at Cain’s Ballroom, Tulsa consistently sells out performances at our music venues, bringing in residents from around the state and multi-state region. Downtown’s Brady District is already home to the Woody Guthrie Center—which is co-curated by the Grammy Museum—and last year one of our major local foundations announced they had acquired the Bob Dylan archives with the intent to move them to Tulsa and ultimately construct a similar museum.

In addition to the this focus on music in the downtown core, the OKPOP attraction has been funded by a public-private partnership. It’s a $50-million development across the street from historic Cain’s Ballroom that will be home to Oklahoma’s “Pop Culture”, and will feature collections from musicians like Garth Brooks, Kristin Chenoweth and Bob Wills, to mention a few. You pair these amenities with fantastic local events like Tulsa Tough, which offers one of the top purses for criterium racing cyclists in the nation, or Hop Jam, a beer festival, and we think Tulsa offers a unique experience for Millennial tourists—all at an affordable price.

What are you most looking forward to at the City Nation Place summit?

We’re constantly looking for new ideas that we can try out and improve in Tulsa, so I think, in general, I’m excited to hear about best practices other communities are employing to improve the quality of life and destination to attract visitors and residents. I think in Tulsa we’ve grown to realize that if you’re not constantly innovating and pushing to improve beyond the status quo, then you’re being left behind. A city that isn’t investing in itself and the amenities that will keep people interested and intrigued is a city that won’t be successful for long.


Ready to join us? Then head over to the event website to reserve your spot. If you need a bit more convincing, we’ll be featuring session overviews and speaker profiles in the coming weeks here. But don’t wait too long—a gathering this anticipated will sell out quickly.