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.
When Clint Parr signed up his Tulsa mobile business solutions firm for the state's Quality Jobs program last fall, MacroSolve Inc. had just gone public, and a growth spurt had him hunting for employees.
While the company hasn't grown jobs in the past year, the five-year growth plan Parr submitted for the incentive-based program that gives cash payments for increasing payrolls leaves time for that workforce expansion. The forecast future business also impressed investors.
"The good thing about the program, when you have your plans in place, it gives investors some comfort with your growth," said Parr, president and chief executive officer.
Combined with the low cost of living and doing business in Oklahoma, "when you staple that incentive on to it, that's a heck of a deal," he said.
The bundle of business incentives available from the state's Commerce Department for companies that want to increase operations, add jobs or expand infrastructure is growing, even amid a recession that has cut into many companies' bottom line.
Recently added programs, and some that will start soon, are going beyond helping companies secure traditional income tax credits and cash rebates for adding jobs. And they are reaching out beyond the state's core manufacturing sector.
But while the help is there, the challenge is getting the word out, commerce officials say.
"A big problem we have is so many times we hear companies don't know about the programs," said Martin Roberts, an economic development specialist with the department. Every year, he reviews existing incentives and details the latest methods to bolster operations at events such as manufacturing conferences.
"There are four new incentives this year," Roberts said, the result of new legislation and state officials' efforts to keep Oklahoma up-to-date with competing states.
The Commerce Department's most publicized and widely used Quality Jobs program - which provides up to 5 percent in cash rebates from the Oklahoma Tax Commission on newly created payroll - remains, but an upgraded version adding an investment tax credit targets manufacturers paying higher-than-average wages and looking to make a capital investment greater than $40 million.
That incentive starts Jan. 1.
Commerce wants to assist new high-growth, knowledge-based industries that have some positions with average wages reaching $86,600. Companies offering professional, scientific and technical services qualify, as do those in finance and insurance, information, music and film.
Specialty hospitals, management companies and utilities that are expanding into wind energy production also are eligible.
Companies can apply for the 21st Century Quality Jobs program Nov. 1.
"We want to target those industries that are high-salaried," Roberts said, and that have jobs that make a big impact on the economy. "We want to give them some incentive."
Two programs that started in July also are reaching into new markets, he said.
The prime contractor incentive targets federal contractors that subcontract work to Oklahoma companies, with benefits tied to how much work the prime contractor does in the state. It's complicated, Roberts said, but it has grabbed attention.
"We expect a lot of companies to take advantage of it," he said.
And communities and counties can fund economic development - which includes creating businesses - through a pooled finance bond incentive that finances projects through the Oklahoma Development Finance Authority.