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.
Oklahoma City and Tulsa recently were ranked among the best places to launch a new business by editors at Fortune Small Business magazine in conjunction with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
The rankings - Oklahoma at No. 1, Tulsa at No. 19 - certainly validated the economic development efforts of our state.
Oklahoma City topped the likes of Pittsburgh, Raleigh, N.C. and Houston for the No. 1 ranking. As pleased as I was to see the rankings, I was curious about what was the difference-maker that put Oklahoma City atop the list.
I discovered a list of criteria on the Fortune Small Business magazine Web site, but found little that could tell me why Oklahoma City ranked higher than every other city in the nation.
So, I asked an editor at Fortune Small Business magazine, for a clarification. Her answer can be boiled down to one word: "affordability."
Now that we've topped the Best Places to Launch list and are in the top 20 for both large and mid-size locations with our two major metropolitan areas, I thought it would be interesting to see what the entrepreneurs starting new businesses look like.
Data supplied by the Kauffman Foundation reveal that the average entrepreneur's age is 39, with 70 percent of those married and 60 percent with children. Most have at least six years of work experience, with half working 10 years or more.
Ninety-five percent possess a bachelor's degree or higher but less than 25 percent said they were interested in entrepreneurship in college.
The Best Places to Launch ranking is an important achievement. Oklahoma's affordable business climate and focus on small business are paying dividends. Our universities offer entrepreneurial development programs and the Donald W. Reynolds Governor's Cup collegiate business plan competition and the i2E Fellows Program contribute to homegrown entrepreneurship.
The companies launching today will drive our economy in the near future. Keep in mind a significant number of today's Fortune 500 companies were founded during economic recessions.
Bottom line: Oklahoma is a great place to launch a new business. But of course, our thriving entrepreneurial community already knew that.
Tom Walker is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a not-for-profit corporation that mentors many of the state's technology-based start-up companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology.