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 Jeff Penner set out to develop a string of hotels along the Oklahoma River two years ago, the economy was buzzing and occupancy was riding along a five-year boom.
Now that two of three waterfront hotels are set to open along SW 15, just east of Meridian Avenue, the economic climate isn't nearly as friendly.
"It's very different than when we started," Penner said. "But Oklahoma City has been very fortunate. We're not seeing nearly the impact that the East and West coasts have seen. Occupancy is down, but rates are holding. The bottom hasn't fallen out."
Penner hopes the Staybridge Suites and the Holiday Inn and Suites, an approximately $15 million development, will appeal to traditional visitors to the Meridian/Interstate 40 corridor who are looking for something different during their stay.
The 103-room Staybridge Suites are an extended-stay operation - "more like apartments you rent out," Penner said. The 147-room Holiday Inn, meanwhile, has corner rooms with an open view of the river and a lounge and patio that connects directly to the river's shoreline and trails.
The target opening is July 1.
More work to come
More hotel development along the river corridor is to follow. Excavation of old debris is under way as a precursor to construction starting up on an adjoining Hampton Inn. Penner said his development has one more pad left for either a fourth hotel or a restaurant.
Another developer, Champion Hotels, meanwhile, is building a Marriott Fairfield Inn and a Marriott Townplace Suites at Meridian and SW 15.
Pat Downes, development director for the Oklahoma City Riverfront Redevelopment Authority, sees more opportunities ahead with the extension of SW 15, which parallels the river, to MacArthur Avenue.
"The extension, coupled with close-by access from I-40 and I-44 will make this area enticingly attractive for hospitality development," Downes said.
"While we've not been completely immune to the slowdown, there isn't a week that goes by where we don't see an inquiry about restaurants and hotels. It's the river view that makes opportunities for development in this area more and more palpable," he said.