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Laundris Corp. joins a wave of Black tech companies moving to Tulsa, Oklahoma

The company will be located at 36 Degrees North, Tulsa's home base for entrepreneurs, innovators and startups.

Laundris Corp. joins a wave of Black tech companies moving to Tulsa, Oklahoma
Laundris Corp. a B2B commercial laundry software company serving hospitality, health care, short term rental clients, announced a move from Austin, Texas, to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to join its growing tech hub. JEREMY SALLEE/UNSPLASH PHOTO

CEO Don Ward knew it was time.

Austin, Texas, was long a hub for his B2B commercial laundry software company, Laundris Corp. It was where he got his start, co-launched the business in 2017, and took advantage of the economic growth, forming partnerships with HCL Technologies, Microsoft, Oracle, and Google.

For his efforts, Google named Ward one of the Top 30 Black founders in America in 2021, and Laundris received an American Business Award in 2022.

But now, he is starting a new chapter in Tulsa, Oklahoma — a rapidly growing tech hub for Black entrepreneurs and businesses. The company will be located at 36 Degrees North, Tulsa's home base for entrepreneurs, innovators and startups.

In conjunction with the move, Laundris plans to invest $3 million in operations. The five-person team hopes to add 15 staff positions for its customer service, project management, sales and customer support departments beginning in early March.

Laundris’ software uses artificial intelligence (AI) and its patented inventory management platform to allow companies to track things in real time and provide article tracking, analytics, inventory state, and location status.

“Our company is primarily focused on the next generation of new and emerging technology, specifically the physical to digital transformation of enterprises,” Laundris’ Ward said in a statement. “The geographic location of Tulsa and the resources provided give Laundris a strategic advantage as we scale throughout the United States and globally. We look forward to participating in — and growing — the city's tech ecosystem and community.”

'The Oil Capital of the World' attracting tech companies to build HQs

Laundris isn't the first tech company to relocate to Tulsa in recent years.

Through Tulsa’s Future, a Regional Chamber of Commerce-led regional economic development partnership with the City of Tulsa, hundreds of private investors, and regional and tribal partners, companies are making their way to the city, the organization says in its Q4 2022: The Chamber Report.

ClearSign Technologies from Seattle, Washington, USA BMX and aerospace company Air Transport Components, from the Phoenix area, also relocated.

Meanwhile, Milo’s Tea Company, an Alabama-based beverage manufacturer, invested an additional $20 million toward a local production facility upon its move.

Hayden Industrial, a California-based manufacturer, expanded its operations to Tulsa, and Michigan-based financial services company, Compu-Link, relocated to the city's old Eastgate Metroplex.

“Since coming to Tulsa nearly two years ago, I’ve seen firsthand the investment in economic development from our business community and regional and tribal partners through Tulsa’s Future,” Arthur Jackson, senior vice president of economic development for the Tulsa Regional Chamber, said in its Q4 report.

Jackson previously served as the senior director of economic development at the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce from 2020-21 and as director of economic development from 2015-20.

He knew Ward and urged him to come, according to The Business Journals. Having gained firsthand experience over the last two years since he took on his current role, Jackson said Tulsa is an ideal place to expand its business.

“Laundris is clearly an innovator and disruptor in the linen and technology industry,” Jackson said in a statement. “Their presence in Tulsa will not only mean good things for their company, but they will also add to the critical mass of tech-based companies we are attracting to our region.”

Announced at the Tulsa Regional Chamber’s State of the Economy event in December, 133 companies and regional and tribal partners have pledged more than $3.1 million in annual commitments to support Tulsa’s Future and bolster the region’s economic development activity.

Black tech initiatives revitalizing the history of Black Wall Street

A new chapter is also being written by those closest to its impact 100 years after an event known as the Tulsa Race Massacre destroyed "Black Wall Street," one of America’s wealthiest Black neighbourhoods, and scattered almost 300 Black bodies along its road.

It has never recovered, nor has it been duplicated, but a cohort of groups is targeting a rebuild through the fintech industry and other sectors, according to The Root.

Tyrance Billingsley II founded Black Tech Street, a global technology initiative for Black business owners in Tulsa. He is one of the descendants who feel a personal responsibility to help rebuild the district.

Black Tech Street has persuaded big tech companies to establish hubs in the city and recruit Black workers because of a relationship with innovation firm SecondMuse. It is a firm that helps investors find Black startups and provides Black entrepreneurs with the tools they need to grow their enterprises.

Likewise, Build in Tulsa, an accelerator network made up of ACT Tulsa, Techstars, and Lightship Foundation, a venture capital fund, is making headway. And Tulsa Remote, a program sponsored by the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF) that pays remote workers $10,000 to move, according to The Root.

Because housing in Tulsa costs about one-fifth the price of housing in Los Angeles or New York, the organizers behind Tulsa Remote assumed that Tulsa could bring in new residents and income to boost its economy, according to a report from the Harvard Business Review.

So far, it is working. The report reads that the participants in the program reported a higher standard of living, higher incomes, and cheaper housing, which led to more community participation, lower taxes, and bridge-building across communities.

“This is a really collaborative effort among the city, local organizations such as our regional chamber, and entrepreneurs,” Jackson told The Root. “I’ve never seen this kind of intentionality around, not only developing Black-owned businesses but also Black tech talent.”