Greater Oklahoma City is in the geographic center of North America equidistant from the east and west coasts and major trade partners of Canada and Mexico. The ten county region is at the crossroads of the U.S., sitting at the heart of three major national highways on the NAFTA corridor.
There's a reason Greater Oklahoma City is such a great place for business: Location. The ten county region is positioned within a day's drive of the rapidly-growing south-central region (OK, TX, AR, LA) projected to grow more than 44% during the next 25 years.
Noting low costs of living and good jobs, Forbes named Oklahoma City America's Most Affordable City.
At the height of the Great Recession, Forbes.com said Oklahoma City was the most recession-proof city in the country. Two and a half years later, the magazine has given the city another top ranking.
Noting low costs of living and good jobs, Forbes named Oklahoma City as America's Most Affordable City.
The magazine also noted Oklahoma City's friendly residents and an unemployment rate well below the national average, 6.3 percent compared to 9.5 percent.
"We searched for cities that had a balance of cheap living and economic prosperity - places with solid job markets, but where costs aren't prohibitive," magazine editors said. "In these cities, costs have stayed down, but residents have held onto steady incomes and decent jobs, making them a true bargain."
Forbes looked at all metropolitan statistical areas with populations of at least 100,000. They were ranked on the cost of a basket of goods and services, including groceries, health care and transportation, as of the second quarter of 2010.
The magazine also measured the monthly cost of housing as a percentage of household income.
The average sale price of an Oklahoma City-area home in September was $158,755, up 6.7 percent from September 2009, and the median price was $135,000, up 4.8 percent, according to the Oklahoma City Metro Association of Realtors.
The next four spots on the Forbes list went to Pittsburgh; Buffalo, N.Y.; Rochester, N.Y.; and Nashville, Tenn. The top 10 also includes three Texas cities: San Antonio, Houston and Austin, along with Louisville, Ky., and Birmingham, Ala.
"State capitals and university towns have vibrancy because of their job base, the stability of jobs and cultural diversification," said James Gaines, a research economist at the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University.
The ranking was the latest in a string of kudos for Oklahoma City. In October, Oklahoma City was named a Top 25 Performing City by the Milken Institute, No. 7 Best City for Income Growth by Portfolio.com, a Top 5 Fastest Growing City by Forbes and a Top 10 State for Doing Business by Area Development Magazine.
"In times like these, value is key to everything we do as a chamber," said Roy Williams, president and CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. "From attracting new business, retaining and fostering growth with our current companies to attracting conventions and visitors, the number one factor on everyone's mind is value. Affordability isn't always about being the cheapest, it is also about the quality you get for your dollar."
The Boeing Co. recently announced plans to move 550 high-paying engineering jobs here. The company cited low costs of living and doing business and economic development incentives in the decision to move the jobs from Long Beach, Calif.
Hobby Lobby is on track to open 25 new stores this year around the country, and will begin work this summer on construction of a new store in Moore.
The Oklahoma City-based chain of arts and craft stores, owned by David Green, has stayed on course in its expansion plans despite the national recession that has hurt many retailers.
"Our same-store sales are up mid-single digits," said Scott Nelson, assistant vice president of real estate with Hobby Lobby. "We're just not seeing the effects of the economy at this point."
Nelson said the company continues to open 25 to 30 stores per year.
"This year is no different," he said.
The new 55,000-square-foot Hobby Lobby will be built at the Shops at Moore at Interstate 35 and S. 19th Street. Nelson said about 50 to 60 percent of the stores are new construction and the others backfill vacant spaces.
There are 19 Hobby Lobby stores in Oklahoma. The new store is the only one on the drawing board for Oklahoma and is expected to open in the first quarter of 2010, but Nelson said Hobby Lobby still has its sights on further expansion in Oklahoma and company officials are considering a store in Shawnee.
The next-closest Hobby Lobby is at 9118 S. Western Ave. Nelson said that store will remain open and the company will look at the practicality of having two stores in close proximity.
Despite growing retail vacancies, the tenant mix at the Shops at Moore has not been touched by closures.
But even as the center has held its tenants, and will add Hobby Lobby and three smaller stores early next year, owner Burk Collins is not expecting much more activity until market conditions improve and lenders are willing to provide money for brands to expand.
Collins said Hobby Lobby and the three smaller stores will fill a vital gap to connect a JCPenney store with Best Buy.
Collins has built a tenant mix of national brands in Moore including Ross Dress for Less, Office Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond and PetSmart. He owns retail properties in Oklahoma and Texas.
"Overall in Texas and Oklahoma my leasing has been up 15 to 20 percent," Collins said. "The problem we're having with this economy is lenders aren't loaning any money for new projects."
The slowed retail market has also caused Collins to put some plans on hold, including a 100,000-square-foot expansion of his 240,000-square-foot 240 Penn Park in south Oklahoma City.
Mark Inman, with CB Richard Ellis Oklahoma, handled the Hobby Lobby transaction.