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Top Cities to Start a Business: Tulsa, Oklahoma

For much of the twentieth century, Tulsa was known as the Oil Capital of the World. The city played an important role in the American oil industry until the decline of the industry led to a more diversified economy. Today, Tulsa’s economy is based on a number of sectors including energy, finance, aviation, telecommunications and technology. The city sits on the banks of the Arkansas River in the Green Country region at the foot of the Ozark Mountains. A major regional hub for art and culture, Tulsa is home to 403,505 people and is the second largest city in Oklahoma.

When looking at good locations to start a business, a number of factors come into play. These include access to resources such as financing and talent. Other factors include labor costs, standard of living, and affordability of office spaces. Tulsa benefits from many of these factors, making it one of the best places to do business in the country. In 2016, Tulsa ranked ninth in WalletHub’s annual ranking of the best large cities to start a business in the United States. The same study ranked the city fourth in terms of business costs, recognizing the city’s relatively low start-up, operating and labor costs. The city was also ranked among the top 50 cities by BusinessWeek in 2012.

Business and Infrastructure in Tulsa

Tulsa benefits from excellent infrastructure that supports new and established businesses alike. The Tulsa Port of Catoosa sits at the head of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System. It is the most inland river port in the United States and provides access to international waterways, making it a vital connection to global markets. Tulsa International Airport also connects the area with major markets across the U.S., including Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Denver, Houston and other cities. Tulsa is also home to the University of Tulsa and Oral Roberts University, two top colleges that offer businesses a strong skilled talent and other resources. Approximately 67,540 college students live within 50 miles of Tulsa, which also has branches of the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University.

Following the national recession during the early 2000s, Tulsa responded with a new development strategy called Vision 2025. The new initiative focuses on economic growth to recover jobs lost during the recession. Projects include improvements to infrastructure, tourism development, riverfront retail development, urban revitalization, and increased diversification of the local economy. Although oil-related businesses continue to be a large segment of the city’s economy, Tulsa’s businesses have diversified into aviation and aerospace, data processing, distribution manufacturing, and telecommunications. Jobs have also diversified and major employers include construction, education, health care, high technology, manufacturing, service, and transportation sectors.

Business Support in Tulsa

New businesses in Tulsa have access to a various support services. The Forge is a start-up hub and small business incubator in downtown Tulsa. In addition to low-cost office space, it provides new businesses with access to start-up resources such as mentoring and financing. Other supports in the city include the Cultivate918 network of entrepreneurs and the 36°N resource center with co-working space and capital resources for start-ups. The Tulsa Economic Development Corporation (TEDC) Creative Capital program provides direct lending to developing small businesses in the city, while the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center provides entrepreneurs with help on starting and growing businesses.

Living in Tulsa

In addition to excellent infrastructure and access to supports, Tulsa also benefits from a good standard of living with affordable properties and short commute times. The city boasts a wide range of neighborhoods and suburbs with an average home costing 33.5 percent less than the national average. Apartment rents are also approximately 32 percent less than the national average. At an average of 20 minutes, the city has the second fastest commute for a large city in the United States. The city’s cost of living is also 12 percent below the national average, yet Tulsa’s per capital income is 11.6 percent better than the national average. Tulsa is also home to a thriving art and music scene and offers residents plenty of parks and green spaces, running and bike trails, festivals, restaurants and bars, and much more.




(1) Population Estimates: City and Town Totals, United States Census Bureau,

(2) ‘2016’s Best Large Cities to Start a Business’, WalletHub,

(3) ‘America’s 50 Best Cities’, BusinessWeek,

(4) ‘The Tulsa Region’, Tulsa Regional Chamber,

(5) ‘Explore Tulsa’, Choose Tulsa,




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