CATOOSA - Barges and blackjack have opened the door for explosive growth in Catoosa.
The Tulsa Port of Catoosa’s impact is directly felt in the Rogers County town, as it helped ignite a population boom that has been going on for four decades. Since the port opened in 1971, Catoosa has grown from a community of fewer than 1,000 residents to a population of 7,151 as of 2012, an increase of 637 percent.”We have 4,000 people working out here, so Catoosa is going to feel the spillover benefits,” Director Bob Portiss said. “What they spend their money on is going to benefit Catoosa and help it grow.”The second farthest inland port in the United States, the Tulsa Port of Catoosa handled 2.7 million tons of barge cargo in 2013. More than 60 commercial and industrial businesses have offices at the facility.
“Energy and agriculture drive our boats,” Portiss said. “What I’m seeing as far as the energy industry is concerned, they have to. We will continue to see strong volumes of cargo by barge due to its low-cost nature.
“It costs more to do business today. If they can find a way to ship their products to market and if they can save a buck, they’re going to do it. We certainly offer a mode of transportation that you clearly can’t overlook.”
Along with the port, continued expansion of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa has helped spur job creation in the community since it opened in 1993 as Cherokee Nation Bingo Outpost. The casino and the two corporate entities over it Cherokee Nation Entertainment and Cherokee Nation Businesses account for 1,811 jobs in Catoosa alone, more than 93 percent of Cherokee Nation Businesses’ positions in Rogers County.
“It (the casino) has made it more lucrative to do business here,” Mayor Harold “Red” Staten said. “We have two new hotels, and they’re full almost every night. You have to have a reservation to get a room. You can’t just walk in the door any more.”
Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that, despite the Great Recession, the total number of businesses based in Catoosa is 12 percent higher than it was 10 years ago when the casino added its first hotel tower and reopened the Cherokee Hills golf course.
“Cherokee Nation Businesses started with the casinos, which generated money and expertise that allowed us to branch into other types of businesses,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “A large part of our profit is invested back into those businesses, which helps us grow and create more jobs. Everything we do puts dollars directly back into local economies.”
Catoosa’s growth has even caught the attention of Wal-Mart, which is building a store in Catoosa across 193rd East Avenue from the casino. Scheduled to open later this year, the store will be the anchor of the new Catoosa Hills Shopping Center.
Construction on the shopping center has helped spur work on two more hotels, adding even more jobs to what has become Catoosa’s third-largest industry behind manufacturing and retail sales.
“I think what it is when we look at Tulsa and its suburbs, we have several strong economic engines that we’re all benefitting from,” Portiss said.
“On top of that, there’s a low cost of living compared to other parts of country. Still have the open areas, with all city amenities.”
Population: 7,151, 56th largest in Oklahoma
Population change since 2000: 31.5 percent increase
• Tulsa Port of Catoosa (4,000)
• Cherokee Nation (1,811)
Unemployment rate (October 2013): 4.4 percent
Did you know: The Tulsa Port of Catoosa is the second farthest inland U.S. port, trailing only Minnesota’s Port of Duluth-Superior.
History: Initially a Cherokee community, Catoosa benefited as the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad laid tracks into town in 1881, sparking its transformation into a cattle hub. Although agriculture remains significant, the town’s location on Route 66 led to further economic diversification in the 1940s and 1950s, thanks to travelers. Between the port, which opened in 1971, and the development and expansion of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa, Catoosa’s population grew from less than 1,000 in 1970 to more than 7,000 in 2012.