President and CEO of the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, Mike Neal has been working to improve the city since he took the job in 2006. Before moving to Oklahoma, Neal led chambers in Nashville and his hometown of Monroe, La. Outside work, Neal is involved in a variety of community efforts, including serving as the board chair of the Oklahoma Academy – a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the state through public policy. Neal and his wife, Jana, have two daughters. We caught up with Neal and got his thoughts on …
… the best part of his job.
The opportunity to be involved in so many different projects every day, and to work with a highly supportive business community, Chamber board and a phenomenally dedicated and devoted staff. I value and appreciate the partnerships we’ve developed with the mayor, city council members, county commissioners, state and federal elected officials, and legislative delegations – and our extremely collaborative tribal partners. I’m a people person, so I get energized by having the opportunity to work with so many talented partners.
… how Tulsa has transformed during his 17+ year tenure.
Downtown Tulsa is almost unrecognizable from what it was. Progress has been tremendous. We now have an extraordinary ability to attract events – and to showcase Tulsa to visitors during events like the PGA Championship, NCAA wrestling, USA Gymnastics, USA BMX and so many others. We’ve also seen tremendous growth across the region. There used to be competition between Tulsa and the suburbs, but now we work together and understand that a win for one is a win for our entire region. We have fabulous regional chambers and regional economic development partners who do such outstanding work in their respective communities, work that benefits us all.
… where he’d like Tulsa to be by 2050.
I’d like to see that Tulsa has attracted a number of new corporate headquarters. I’d like to see that we have continued to build on our thriving manufacturing base while taking advantage of the Tulsa Port of Catoosa, the Port of Inola, the Port of Muskogee and the MidAmerica Industrial Park in Pryor to further grow our economy. I know we will continue to support and build on our legacy industries of energy and aerospace/aviation. I look forward to completion of the new low water dam adjacent to Gathering Place, but also other low water dams, so we can more fully utilize the Arkansas River for recreational purposes.
Our region should continue to build on the success of the Tulsa Remote program in attracting talented young people from all across this country and around the world to come to Tulsa for job and career opportunities, and to raise families. In the next decades I’d like to see our entertainment districts more fully developed, contributing to an even more vibrant downtown, bustling wider community and suburbs. And as a golf fan, I look forward to us regularly hosting future PGA Championships and U.S. Opens at Southern Hills Country Club.
… what he’s looking forward to.
The continued growth and progress of the Chamber. We will continue to pursue our mission of transforming the Tulsa region by attracting and retaining employers, talent and tourism in support of long-term prosperity. We will go after big goals in our strategic areas of economic development, tourism, government affairs and community development. I’m also looking forward to the continued progress of our city – our downtown development, and utilization of the BOK Center and ONEOK Field. Both of those venues have been enormous catalysts for public and private investments. Outstanding public-private partnerships have been developed in collaboration with the city, county and state, as well as with our federal and tribal partners. And I’m excited about the opportunity to jump start construction of a new convention center hotel in downtown Tulsa, adjacent to a new medical district that is being expanded by OSU and the new VA hospital.
… the Oklahoma Academy.
The Oklahoma Academy is a statewide, nonprofit/nonpartisan membership organization founded by Gov. Henry Bellmon in 1967 to bring public attention to the major policy issues facing the state, and to provide objective research, develop consensus public policy recommendations and act as a catalyst for positive change on those issues. One way the Academy achieves this mission is through its annual Town Hall conference. The Academy just finished up this year’s Town Hall, which focused on our need for housing in Oklahoma. The commitment of the Town Hall participants to foster a dialogue on affordable, accessible and attainable housing was vital in addressing the pressing issues our state is currently facing. The Academy will release those recommendations at a press conference this month. In my second year as board chair, I will lead the Academy in launching a substantial $5 million endowment campaign. The achievement of this long-term investment will secure Governor Bellmon’s vision for years to come.
… his off-time.
In the early mornings you can find me at the gym. In the evenings I’ll be at a ballgame or a concert at the BOK Center. I’m a huge sports fan and enjoy watching football, basketball, baseball, soccer and hockey – and maybe occasionally attempting to play golf. I also walk 10 to 12 miles a day, so I am constantly moving. About twice a year, you can also find me at the Neal Family Vineyards in Napa Valley.