Oklahoma continues to rack up the wins, and it’s no surprise why. The state consistently boasts one of the lowest costs of doing business in the country. During the second half of 2016, companies like Boeing and General Electric (GE) held grand openings of new facilities in the Sooner State, bringing new, high-paying jobs and impressive levels of investment. And Google’s $1.2 billion expansion brought the company’s total investment in Oklahoma to more than $2 billion.
The state offers distinct advantages to businesses seeking to relocate or expand, including a low cost of living, a state government determined to support businesses and to grow the labor force, a regulatory climate that is both responsible and reasonable, and an educated, flexible and committed workforce. Governor Mary Fallin has made it a key priority to give Oklahomans a better quality of life, primarily by creating jobs and strengthening the economy.
The state offers a wide range of industrial parks, each offering unique benefits to the businesses located on the premises.
One Oklahoma industrial park, Midwest City’s Soldier Creek Industrial Park (SCIP) recently joined the ranks of other “Site Ready” locations. A site’s successful completion of the Site Ready process guarantees a prospective business that the site is ready for construction. To become certified as Site Ready, site owners and/or community leaders must complete an application identifying key data about the site to aid site selectors in their searches. An objective third party then assists the Oklahoma Department of Commerce in evaluating the application to ensure sites meet program requirements.
SCIP is among 18 other light industrial parks in the state that hold this certification. Site Ready locations, and other available sites in the state, can be found on LocateOK.com, the state’s online resource for properties including mega parks, aerospace parks, heavy industrial, light industrial, warehouse/distribution, business services, research and development and rural business/commerce parks.
The availability of sites certainly helps makes the business case for Oklahoma, but another key selling point (and a question that needs to be answered for each company before they make their final decision) is workforce – including the availability of trained workers, a pipeline for future employees and the ability to recruit talent from other locations.
When it comes to workforce questions, Oklahoma has answers. With more and more jobs requiring post-secondary education, every state is working to increase educational attainment and Oklahoma has taken it a step further. In 2014, the state unveiled a new initiative, Oklahoma Works, to connect businesses, state agencies and educators to address job opportunities and Oklahoma’s skills gap.
In 2015, 46 percent of Oklahoma’s workforce had some sort of degree, certificate or credential. But by 2025, only 23 percent of the new jobs created in the state will be accessible to workers without any post-secondary education. That’s where Oklahoma Works comes in.
“The largest gap is in the area of associates degrees, certificates and credentials. Oklahoma Works has identified the top 100 critical occupations for the state and is working to better align education and training to the needs of Oklahoma’s business and industry,” said Sarah Ashmore, Oklahoma Works coordinator.
“The initiative aims to ensure that all Oklahomans have the skills and education necessary to enter and advance in rewarding careers and that Oklahoma businesses have the talented workforce they need to succeed,” said Sarah Ashmore, Oklahoma Works coordinator. “Oklahoma is facing a significant skills gap, meaning experts predict a large number of Oklahomans must earn post-secondary degrees and credentials to have the minimum level of skill employers demand to continue to grow and prosper.”
Cost of Living, Quality of Life Help Lure Talent
When it comes to recruiting talent, Oklahoma has a few tricks up its sleeve. The state consistently ranks among the lowest in the nation in terms of cost of living. In fact, its two major metropolitans, Tulsa and Oklahoma City, were recently named No. 1 and 2 top cities for first-time homebuyers. Add that to the state’s impressive quality of life and the job opportunities offered at impressive companies located in the state (Boeing, GE, Google, Goodyear and Paycom, just to name a few) and it’s often hard for potential new residents to say no.
When asked about recently being recruited to Oklahoma by Boeing, one employee said, “Don’t even think once about any other state just because the cost of living … It’s, it’s so affordable. I moved down here, and I didn’t rent a place. I ended up buying my own house just because the housing market was affordable enough for me to do so.”
The low cost of living is just one perk; there’s more to do than most people imagine. Oklahoma is home to a wide variety of entertainment and excitement, and the list of things to do just keeps growing. There’s much to celebrate in Oklahoma, with cultural events, spectator sports and festivals of all sorts taking place just about every weekend.
“We’ve relocated a lot of people from the coasts… I think they’re very pleasantly surprised by the wide variety of activities, including the [Oklahoma] river, the international rowing venue, all of the public artwork, the theater, the shopping, all that kind of stuff,” said Steve Hendrickson, Director of Government Operations, The Boeing Company.
Calling Oklahoma Home
Tulsa, Oklahoma might seem like a world away from New York City, but to Joan DiMatteo-Hunt, who grew up in Brooklyn and lived in New Jersey until three years ago, there are more similarities than differences.
“It reminds me of New York City on a smaller scale,” she said. “Here, there’s a lot of up-and-coming activities and opportunities that I didn’t really realize [until I got here].”
DiMatteo-Hunt, the senior manager of wholesale billing at Verizon, recently relocated to Oklahoma for work, bringing her husband, two daughters and father-in-law along with her. She now lives in a Tulsa suburb, where her daughters participate in dance and varsity tennis. The Sooner State has received rave reviews all around.
“We really adapted well,” she said. “It’s wonderful because everything is available and convenient.”
She’s also a big fan of Oklahoma’s lower cost of living, more affordable real estate, excellent public schools and, of course, the people.
“I think the people here are very friendly,” she said. “The people here go the extra mile. That’s what makes Oklahoma special.”
She said she was a little unsure of what to expect when she first arrived, but soon realized the state has a lot to offer, from the mild winters to the laid-back lifestyle of middle America. Now, she’s experiencing a renewed lifestyle and loving every minute of it.
She said come to Oklahoma, “if you want to live easier, just enjoy things a little bit more and experience things a little more.”
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Photos courtesy of Oklahoma Department of Commerce