How a demographic trend seems to be going Tulsa’s way

Running for a traveling air show in the summer of 1929, crews spent just two weeks building Tulsa’s first public airport, erecting a small hangar and mowing two short airstrips in a wheat field. wide-open.

The facilities seemed skimpy, even by biplane-era standards. But Tulsa Municipal quickly became the busiest airport in the world, surpassing the much larger airfields in New York, Paris and London. Tulsa’s central location made it a great place to refuel during flights across the county.

By the mid-1940s, long-range aircraft made refueling stops less necessary, but Tulsa’s central location made it a prime candidate for the maintenance center of American Airlines, which announced plans to leave New York’s crowded LaGuardia Airport after the end of World War II. .

Local officials, however, had to counter a compelling argument against Tulsa’s bid. The city may have been close to the geographic center of the United States, but it was not that close to the population center.

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St. Louis and other cities in the Midwest tempted American Airlines, saying they would be closer to where the plane would actually be used.

Tulsa eventually won the contract, not only because of the city’s central location, but also the elongated runways and extra-wide hangars left over from wartime bomber production. The airline’s maintenance base opened in 1946 and remains one of the city’s largest employers to this day.

Nonetheless, the country’s population center — where an equal number of people live in the north, south, east, and west — remained a data point that sometimes played against Tulsa. Manufacturing and distribution centers want to be close to customers, and Tulsa seemed too far from where most Americans lived.

The population center now sits just 230 miles northeast of Tulsa near the small town of Hartville in south-central Missouri, according to 2020 census data released last week.

Hartville is 26 miles closer to the center of Tulsa than the previous location – Plato, Missouri – in the 2010 census. And Plato was 37 miles closer to Tulsa than the previous location, near Edgar Springs, Missouri.

The population center has been drifting steadily southwest since the 1920s, when it was in eastern Indiana. And it’s come nearly 250 miles closer to Tulsa in the past 50 years alone. If current trends continue, the center could reach northeast Oklahoma by the middle of this century.

And that means the American population is just one more thing that seems to be going Tulsa’s way.

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