TCC Takes on Spirit Award

Tulsa Community College recently committed to supporting the city’s entrepreneurial efforts by taking the helm of Mayor Kathy Taylor’s Tulsa Entrepreneurial Spirit Award next year and into the future.
Mayor Taylor initiated the Spirit Award in 2007 as a way to encourage local entrepreneurs to start and maintain businesses in Tulsa. The eight-month competition culminates with a ceremony where three winners are awarded cash prizes of $30,000, $5,000 and $2,500 from SpiritBank.
When Taylor announced she wouldn’t be running for re-election (Dewey Bartlett takes office on Dec. 7), TCC stepped up to take on the Spirit Award and ensure it continues in years to come.
TCC President Tom McKeon said by breaking the award’s connection to an elected official, TCC can ensure the competition’s stability and longevity.
“When the mayor announced she was not seeking re-election, we thought it would be a great fit to partner with SpiritBank and give the Spirit Award stability in long haul,” he said.
“We look forward to working with SpiritBank,” McKeon said. “I think SpiritBank and TCC will be great partners as we look toward the future of the Spirit Award.”
McKeon said, next year at least, the competition’s structure will remain the same. Future changes are yet to be decided.
“The first year, we aim at having a smooth transition,” McKeon said. “We won’t make any significant changes to the award or process. But we’re open in working with SpiritBank to see how we can maybe take this to new levels of interest and involvement.”
Barbara Slagle will lead the college’s involvement with the award, which will be in a coordinating and facilitating role, McKeon said.
“We’ll do a lot of logistical things in terms of scheduling and calendar, communicating with applicants,” he said. “And we’ll help with the venue and logistics for the (ceremony).”
This year’s ceremony took place at TCC’s new Center for Creativity, at Ninth Street and Boston Avenue downtown.
In addition to taking on the Spirit Award, TCC has been working for almost eight months on a new entrepreneurship program, which will officially launch in February and be added to the spring curriculum.
Carol Messer, provost for TCC’s south campus, is leading that project.
Messer has served on Mayor Taylor’s Entrepreneurial Task force for about a year and a half and worked with Spirit Award Chair Sean Griffin on the development of the new program.
“TCC likes to convene people,” Messer said. “Since we feed into all of the four-year institutions in this area and work very closely with Tulsa CareerTech (Tulsa Public Schools’ program for work force education), we see ourselves as kind of the conduit or convener for a lot of different activities in the area. Working with Global Entrepreneurship Week just makes sense for us.”
McKeon said TCC’s involvement with entrepreneurial activities is important for both its students and graduates.
“I think it really highlights how critically important innovation and creativity and entrepreneurship are in today’s economic climate,” he said. “It gives visibility to the importance of those. Our hope is that someday some of our students would be applicants with an idea and get involved with (Spirit Award).”
Through the Spirit Award and the entrepreneurship program, TCC hopes to “help grow Tulsa in terms of new business, new business opportunities and to help create jobs and strengthen the economy,” McKeon said.
“If Tulsa is stronger economically and stronger in terms of the businesses it’s attracting and growing, that provides greater opportunities for our students and graduates,” he said.
He said TCC staff members have already met with Spirit Award officials and begun planning next year’s contest.

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