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.
Millions of dollars are riding on Paul Risser's homework assignment. But that's not all. As a member of the board that will decide where to invest proceeds from the EDGE research endowment, Risser and fellow board members are helping the state create a more prosperous future.
Last month, 65 researchers or teams of researchers filed the first round of applications seeking to get a piece of the $5 million available for EDGE awards this year. The number of applications is down from 94 last year, when the endowment's policy board disbursed its first-ever awards totaling $12.5 million.
Members of the board and its advisory committee are reviewing the preliminary proposals - a complicated homework assignment. Next month, the board will narrow the list of applicants and invite as many as a dozen to make full proposals, said Risser, who also serves as the EDGE fund's executive director.
Last year, the board had two years of endowment earnings to work with and selected five awardees. With only a year's interest to award this time, it's likely as few as three applicants will receive funding.
It's disappointing that five years after the Economic Development Generating Excellence project began, the endowment has only $150 million toward the $1 billion goal. Yet despite the slow start, any one of the selected projects could lead to the development of products or companies that eventually could generate high-paying jobs and diversify the state's economy. The possibilities are exciting and infinite. Part of that is because state leaders thought especially big in setting up the program.
Risser said several states have programs to focus on turning research and technology into commercial opportunities, jobs and big bucks for state coffers. But most of the programs have a strict focus like cancer or energy. EDGE makes money available for eight sectors from aerospace to agriculture to weather science. That allows funding of projects that cross multiple disciplines.
"Some of the most innovative proposals cross disciplines. This allows us to focus on the ideas and not pigeon hole based on one area of focus," Risser said. The tough part of that breadth, he said, is having an advisory committee with wide-ranging expertise to help evaluate proposals.
In the year since the first awards, Risser said three states - Ohio, Missouri and Texas - have expressed interested in the EDGE model. We expect more interest will follow as the program ages and has more money to disburse.
Investing in our own future is tough to do when there's not an immediate payoff. But it's absolutely the right thing to do.