2016 Regional Report: The Southwest

The Southwest states are well-positioned for the growth that's taking place among U.S. factories relocating to or expanding in Mexico.

OklahomaThe plunge in energy prices hit Oklahoma hard. Oil prices dropped nearly in half while statewide drilling activity shrunk at a similar pace. Mining “has an outsize effect on our statewide economy,” observes Monty Evans, senior economist at the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission; about one in four jobs are energy-dependent. The downturn affects how government provides services; Evans worries “we may well be looking at a $1 billion budget shortfall” in 2016.

The bright side is diversification. The Sooner State “has achieved real economic diversity” in recent years, says consultant Angelou. “It’s attracting more technology and R&D companies.”

Still, Oklahoma struggles to regain peak employment. After registering a 5.35% employment hike in 2013, that figure dropped to 4.49% in 2014 and could inch up to 4.59% this year, forecasts Oklahoma State University economist Dan Rickman. While acknowledging that oil and gas prices won’t rise anytime soon, Evans nevertheless forecasts that Oklahoma’s real gross state product will grow 3.1% in 2016.

Employers worry that Oklahoma’s aging workforce could thwart expansion. Education’s a concern too. In Tulsa, the regional chamber continues to press the legislature to address the teacher shortage. Manufacturing, once a state strength, continues to decline. Over the last year, Oklahoma’s manufacturing cluster has shrunk by more than 8,000 manufacturing jobs, nearly 6% of its total. According to Ernie Goss, director of Creighton University’s Economic Forecasting Group, the cluster will shrink further in Q1 2016.

Oklahoma City, the state’s major business center, “continues to enjoy the fruits of economic geography as economic activity concentrates along the I-35 corridor megalopolis,” writes Russell Evans, executive director of the Steven C. Agee Economic Research and Policy Institute at Oklahoma City University. Major expansions and relocations include Boeing’s 290,000 square foot plant in Oklahoma City and Petra Industries’ 275,000 square foot facility in Edmund.

Site selector Foote calls the overall Oklahoma business environment “one of the finest business climates in the country.” He also likes its tax credits, certified real estate sites, incentive programs and welcoming attitude. “Oklahoma is saying, ‘We want you to come here,’” he says.

Logistics are advantageous. As Bill Luttrell, senior locations strategist with Werner Global Logistics, puts it: “It doesn’t hurt to have I-35 and I-40 coming through your state.” Economic development policies also please. Luttrell says, “Oklahoma is a state that’s on the forefront of making things happen.”


Why We're in OklahomaWHO John Shotton, Chairman, Otoe-Missouria Tribe; CEO, Otoe-Missouria Development Authority

SITE HISTORY All tribal businesses, with about 1,800 employees, are administered from tribal council headquarters building on Otoe Reservation in Red Rock. Operations include hotel, restaurant, five casinos, fuel delivery and online lending business.

WHY OKLAHOMA “Oklahoma is not merely a place to do business—it is our home and the center of Otoe-Missouria culture. We work hard to provide meaningful careers and job skills to improve the quality of life for families across northern Oklahoma.”

WHY RED ROCK “This is our home.”

BOTTOM LINE “Our enterprises create jobs in high growth sectors including gaming, technology, financial services, green energy and more. Profits from our tribally owned businesses are used to fund critical social programs for our elders, youth and the most vulnerable members of the tribe and surrounding community.”

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