The Sooner State - Version 2.0
11 May, 2015By: Trade & Industry Development
Oklahoma, the Sooner State, is in the midst of an intense economic transformation. Increased research and development in industry sectors such as agriculture, bioscience, energy and aerospace, coupled with a strong workforce development program, have turned the Sooner State into a hub of innovation and tremendous business potential and have given rise to one of the fastest-growing economies in the country.
Oklahoma’s rebirth and increasingly fertile business climate are largely due to forward-thinking business incentives and effective legislative reforms to workforce compensation and tax laws. The positive impact of these changes can be felt across the state’s key industry sectors: aerospace and defense, agriculture, bioscience, energy, information and financial services and transportation and distribution.
Oklahoma currently offers distinct advantages to businesses seeking to relocate, 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.
Governor Fallin is committed to making the Sooner State not just a place for business, but the place for business – and the state’s most recent economic statistics reflect just that. From 2011 to 2012, Governor Fallin’s first year in office, Oklahoma’s per-capita income increased by 3.5 percent, a third higher than the national average of 2.7 percent. Since her inauguration in 2011, Oklahoma also has consistently ranked among the leading states in GDP growth, with the manufacturing sector significantly expanding in the past few years. From 2010 to 2011, the manufacturing contribution to GDP grew by 13.2 percent, more than twice the national rate of 6.2 percent. Steady growth continued through 2012, with the manufacturing contribution to GDP increasing by 9.9 percent, outpacing the nation’s 7.8 percent and cementing the state’s strong overall economic performance under Governor Fallon’s administration.
Oklahoma Works: Building a Solid Workforce
As the 2013-2014 Chair of the National Governor's Association (NGA), Governor Fallin made workforce development her centerpiece initiative. Her vision resulted in Oklahoma Works, an initiative designed to increase the wealth of all Oklahomans through facilitating quality employment for workers and ready availability of highly skilled talent for business and industry. This initiative is a coalition of state agencies, educational institutions, businesses and other partners. The program brings all of the state’s workforce resources together, connecting employers, employees and job-seekers to information and programs that help build and maintain a robust workforce.
Oklahoma Keeps the World’s Energy Flowing
Oklahoma is central to the global energy industry. A whopping 194,000-plus jobs in Oklahoma are tied to the energy sector – about one quarter of all jobs in the state. The state produces a significant offering of renewable wind energy as well as oil and gas, which represents a third of the state’s economic output alone. To put that in perspective, Oklahoma ranks fourth in the nation in natural gas production, fifth in oil production and fourth in installed wind generation capacity.
Oklahoma’s natural resources are what position the state to be a power player in the energy industry. For example, Oklahoma-based companies such as Devon Energy, Chesapeake Energy, Continental Resources and SandRidge Energy are using new technologies such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling to make the most of the state’s rich natural shale deposits. The use of these technologies is improving extraction efforts and expanding the state’s overall energy output, and Oklahoma’s oil production has doubled and natural gas production has increased 50 percent since 2010.
A wealth of academic resources also reinforces the state’s strong energy proposition in terms of research and development. The University of Tulsa is managing two projects focused on developing exploration and production technologies that will reduce cost and improve the overall economics of oil production. Similarly, the University of Oklahoma is developing and field-testing an in situ bio-surfactant production technology for enhanced oil recovery. Private enterprises such as GE have also established research centers in the state.
Agriculture: Delivering Real-World Solutions to Address 21st Century Challenges
Oklahoma’s standing at the forefront of the ag-bio movement comes as a result of the state’s rich legacy in the agricultural industry and its booming bioscience sector, supported by a strong workforce and exceptional research institutions. The state’s strongest proficiencies lie in the areas of food manufacturing, commodity production, fertilizer manufacturing and R&D.
With more than 500 ag-bioscience-related businesses and organizations, this sector has emerged as one of the key economic forces in Oklahoma, employing more than 164,000 workers. In 2012 alone, Oklahoma attracted over $3.45 billion in research investment capital, 471 patents were granted and $196 million in federal grants were received by Oklahoma institutions.
Aerospace companies in Oklahoma are working with research institutions to create unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and sensors that expand their precision agriculture capabilities – a further testament to the entrepreneurial, innovative spirit and culture that pervades Oklahoma.
Aerospace: The Sky’s the Limit in Oklahoma
From maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facilities to unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and everything in between, aerospace and defense is a $12 billion business in Oklahoma that exports to 170 countries.
As Oklahoma’s third-largest industry sector, aerospace provides work for more than 120,000 people. The state is home to employers such as the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City, the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation, the central training and support facility, which is based in Oklahoma. Oklahoma’s successful aerospace and defense industry sector is a direct result of the state’s extensive training programs, sophisticated workforce and a broad spectrum of facilities that help fan the flames of innovation. These offerings make Oklahoma a natural home for aerospace companies and an indisputable industry leader.
A world leader in UAVs, Oklahoma has one of the first testing and training facilities dedicated solely to UAVs. The state has dedicated testing and research facilities as well as special incentives and educational programs based on promoting UAV research and development. In addition, Oklahoma State University offers the only masters and doctoral degrees in UAVs.
Tinker Air Force Base, the Pentagon’s largest MRO facility, is located in Oklahoma City. The world’s largest commercial MRO, owned by American Airlines, is located in Tulsa. With Boeing and others companies moving some of their operations to the state, the aerospace sector is going to continue to grow. The influx of aerospace companies into Oklahoma results from a very attractive suite of incentives, including the Aerospace Engineer Workforce Tax Credit. The credit provides up to $5,000 in annual tax credits to industry engineers and gives companies up to a 10 percent credit for hiring in-state engineering graduates.