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.
Oklahoma City residents are happy with their local government and getting happier, according to a recent survey.
The city hired ETC Institute, a national survey company, to conduct its annual survey of residents regarding city services. The results released last week showed improvement from last year in all but one of the 57 areas the company assessed, with traffic flow as the only negative area.
The city is above the national average in 27 of the 32 benchmark areas his company surveys, said Chris Tatham, vice president of ETC Institute.
"The city is clearly moving in the right direction, and you are doing that in a turbulent time when most communities around the country are actually seeing decreases in satisfaction levels," Tatham said.
The company surveyed 1,393 city residents, asking them to rate the city on a scale of 1 to 5 in numerous areas. Tatham said 71 percent of those surveyed gave the city a rating of four or five on the overall quality of services, and only 6 percent gave a one or a two.
"I think it's kind of an unexplainable increase," Mayor Mick Cornett said. "In these economic times, you would assume there is going to be more negativity in the community."
People are most happy with the city's fire service, with 92 percent giving the fire department a positive rating. Ambulance service, water utilities and police service also got positive ratings of 70 percent or higher.
The survey report show a pocket of support for the city's planning efforts around the location of the planned relocation of the Interstate 40 Crosstown Expressway. Pat Fennell, executive director of the Latino Community Development Agency, works with many Hispanic residents in the area.
She said the natural reaction to seeing streets and other infrastructure improved in an inner city area would be positive.
"I think there is a lot of enthusiasm in general on core to shore, and there is already some work going on around the highway," she said. "People know that something is going on."
Although those surveyed were happy with police service, the city ranked below other cities surveyed on whether residents' feel safe in their neighborhood at night. The most cited safety concern was gang activity.
Lowest rated was street maintenance, with half of those surveyed giving a negative rating. Those most dissatisfied with the condition of major city streets were centered in the far southwest and southeast parts of the city, along with a cluster near the state Capitol.
The city's public transit system and traffic flow also rated poorly. Those three areas were also the most popular when the company asked which areas the city should emphasize in the next two years.
Cornett said the city has increased its efforts in those areas.
"I think it's clear if you look at the priorities we have addressed and are addressing, their concerns are our concerns," he said. The most significant improvements from last year were in issues dealing with city parks. Satisfaction with city golf courses, availability of park information, safety in parks, quality of swimming pools and the availability of recreational centers all saw increases of 15 percent or more from last year's survey. Although the city renovated the East Course at Lincoln Park and has added spraygrounds, few other changes have been made in parks, leaving officials surprised at the results. Residents near Lake Hefner were particularly critical of park safety. Police made a series of arrests this spring for lewd behavior at parks including Lake Hefner's Hobie Point. "I think people recognize that we are moving in the right direction and they understand - perhaps better than we give them credit for - that other cities are having a tough time economically, a lot tougher time than we are," Cornett said.