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.
The weather was cold and rainy, and turnout, while not horrible, wasn't up to last year's inaugural downtown housing tour.
Architect and downtown housing developer Anthony McDermid was clearly unhappy, but his discomfort was in response to a question that didn't surprise me at all: How do people downtown shop for groceries?
McDermid cringed, made a quick remark I won't repeat, and then let friend and fellow developer Judy Hatfield explain how downtown residents make do with a mix of local shops, a Homeland at NW 18 and Classen and a Walmart Supercenter at Belle Isle. A few other downtown residents in the group remained quiet, but by their faces it was evident they were just as peeved as McDermid the question even exists.
And now we add another source of agitation, the decision by OSU-OKC to relocate the annual downtown farmers' market to NW 63 and WesternAvenue. Some readers are wondering whether this loss is another nail in the coffin on attempts to ever get a grocery store into the heart of downtown.
Let's evaluate the facts. City leaders this week are in Las Vegas attending the International Council of Shopping Centers conference. They are attempting to lure retailers and hotel developers to Oklahoma City, but not one person I've spoken to thinks they've got a shot anytime soon at luring a Whole Foods or HEB Central Market to downtown Oklahoma City.
But as always, the whole game has rested with rooftops, and now the economy.
As late as December, however, at least one, maybe two grocers were looking at planting their flags downtown.
Even in bigger cities this is a major task. Dallas provided subsidies for a few years to help keep an Urban Market alive in its downtown before it finally took root. Don't be surprised that if a deal does come to downtown Oklahoma City it, too, might need a similar partnership.
The farmers' market might not be the best indicator of whether downtown is ready.
The hours weren't the greatest, and the operation required closing the few parking spaces that surrounded the location at Couch Drive/Kerr Park.
Could it work at NW 5 and Broadway at the end of a work day with ample parking? Maybe someday we'll find out.
For now, maybe the best way to gauge whether downtown is ready for its own grocery store will be by monitoring the success of smaller ventures such as Sage in Deep Deuce, Market C on NW 23, and Brown's Bakery and Prairie Thunder Baking Co. in MidTown