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.
A fractured global economic climate is just one of the issues facing the aerospace industry.
"We are struggling to adapt our environment to the evolving industry," said Maj. Gen P. David Gillett, commander of the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker Air Force Base.
"Nonetheless there is no whining allowed and we continue to meet our mission," he said.
The down economy has the industry in a tailspin, and each sector of the aerospace industry is looking for new incentives to regain its flight stamina.
Industry leaders from American Airlines to The Boeing Co. participated in a panel at the Oklahoma Aerospace Summit Tuesday morning at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown Tulsa.
"We are not immune to the current economic challenges - but we have adapted," said Steve McLarty, vice president of sales for North America and Latin America for The Nordam Group. "Times are tough but we will all come out bigger and better. I'm a believer that strong companies can remain strong and even get stronger in difficult economic times."
The panel's focus turned to retention and expansion of the industry.
Gillett said to remain competitive the Air Force must turn its work force into a more cohesive team.
"We have to become more efficient," he said. "If we keep doing business the way we are, in the future we will bankrupt our Air Force. So we have to become better at what we do."
Part of the solution is to do maintenance, repair and overhaul services more efficiently and better evaluate what needs to be inspected. Another part is to increase partnerships with different agencies, he said.
Tinker is also collaborating with local colleges to expand the work force pipeline.
Gillett said Tinker is hiring 500 mechanic positions. They are currently at the halfway point.
Far and away the biggest challenge for the company AAR Corp. is finding enough qualified technicians and mechanics, said Don Wetekam, group vice president of MRO for AAR.
This is an issue that has limited the company's growth, he said.
While the work force shortage is an industry issue, Wetekam said it especially hits hard for smaller companies.
"So when I hear 500 employees go to Tinker that is pulling from those other aerospace companies," he said. "The truth is if all we do is move people from one company to another we haven't gained a thing in terms of the industry."
Since the commercial airline industry has taken a major hit, American Airlines had to offer its engineers a lower price point compared to other companies, said Carmine Romano, senior vice president of maintenance and engineering with American Airlines.
"We are having a hard time retaining engineers - there is a shortage," he said. "We are losing engineers to other companies. We have to have that pipeline to pull from to bring people in."
The Boeing Co. has taken various measures in response to the engineering shortage.
"It is one of my passions to inspire female engineers," said Nancy Anderson, defense and government services chief engineer for The Boeing Co. "So I go out there and show them 'if I can do it, you can do it.'"
In an effort to retain employees, the company has many of its entry-level workers rotate to different programs to learn all aspects of the business.
Wetekam said he thinks the aerospace industry has failed to connect with the younger generations.
"For some reason I don't see the excitement and thrill of aerospace that captured me and many of my generation," he said. "We have to start at the grade-school level and excite that imagination that comes with aerospace."