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.
Fleeing the Great Depression and a drought unprecedented in American history, a vast wave of Oklahomans and Texans dubbed "Okies" loaded everything they could onto crowded vehicles during the 1930s and headed west for California. Today, in huge numbers, their grandchildren are moving back.
It doesn't take Loren O'Laughlin much time to come up with a reason why, in between bites of a burger at an Oklahoma City diner.
"There aren't really people lined up on the streets here competing for a few scraps," said O'Laughlin, 23, who grew up in Sacramento but recently graduated from Oklahoma Christian University and opted to stay. "Small businesses thrive here because networking is so easy."
As California housing prices went wild in the middle of this decade, hundreds of thousands of residents scratched their heads and moved to places where homes were still affordable, state and federal statistics show.
The result was five consecutive years when California saw more residents going to other states than coming. Although many stayed closer to home, the mid-South saw a large influx.
From 2004 through 2007, about 275,000 Californians left the Golden State for the old Dust Bowl states of Oklahoma and Texas, twice the number that left those two states for California, recent Internal Revenue Service figures show.
As a result, it's easy to find Californians living and working in Oklahoma City, a capital of the American heartland.
Ask these Okies-in-reverse why they traded the Golden State for the Sooner State and you'll hear a lot of similar themes: easier to find a job; cheaper to buy or rent a home; better place to make a fresh start. Ask them why they stay in Oklahoma and they'll add to that list a deep optimism that it's a place where things are about to take off.
"Oklahoma City is like Sacramento back when the Kings were in the playoffs," said Branddon Jones, 26, who moved about a year ago. "It's growing. You can get a job. It's just crazy."
A lot of that has to do with Bricktown, where, on a recent Thursday, former Sacramentan Tim Higgins sat on a restaurant patio, watching water taxis weave through a nearby canal.
"This would be the equivalent of Old Sacramento," said Higgins, 47, "except it's much more happening."
From the restaurant patio, Higgins could see a large crane working. Just to his south, workers toiled on a massive project to move an interstate highway away from downtown to make way for a park.
"When I left, all construction had stopped throughout California," he said. "Here I see a lot of construction, a lot of new businesses."
Branddon Jones certainly thinks his luck has improved since leaving Sacramento. He joined the Army as a cook after graduating from Grant High in 2001. Three years later, his mom died, and he came back to his hometown.
"You've got to have something to make it out of there," he said, referring to south Sacramento and Del Paso Heights. "In Oklahoma City, if you just wake up every morning and do what you are supposed to do, you won't have any problems."
In concrete terms: California is losing people like Loren O'Laughlin.
O'Laughlin is an artist and designer. He left Rancho Cordova, Calif., when he got a scholarship from Oklahoma Christian University, and he liked the college's vibe. He never planned to stay in the area, but he met his wife in college, and he was wooed by a local company months before he graduated.
Now O'Laughlin designs trophies for MTM Recognition. When Dale Earnhardt Jr. raises that massive trophy over his head after winning a big NASCAR race, there's a pretty good chance O'Laughlin helped design it.
As much as California could use more creative talent like O'Laughlin's, it needs newly minted nurses like Angela Outlaw even more. The state is short about 50,000 registered nurses, according to the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency.
But Outlaw has no intention of returning to California. She has many quality hospitals to choose from in Oklahoma, and if she does move, she said, it will be to someplace like Austin.
"I meet more Californians here than anyone else," said Outlaw, 42. "And, most of them are planning on staying here permanently."