Oklahoma City: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

Although in its early days oil dominated the economy, Oklahoma City today hosts a wide range of businesses and employers. Agriculture, energy, aviation, government, health care, manufacturing, and industry all play major roles in the city's economic well-being. Oklahoma City is the seat of government for the state of Oklahoma as well as Oklahoma County. There are also many regional federal agency offices located in the City. The government sector accounts for about 20 percent of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area non-agricultural employment. The health care industry is a major economic driver in the city. Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center, which is the largest trainer of Air Traffic Controllers in the world, and Tinker Air Force Base are major drivers as well. As the largest industrial operation in Oklahoma, Tinker serves the U.S. Air Force as a repair depot and provides logistic services for the U.S. Air Force throughout the world. Tinker employs 26,000 military and civilian personnel with a combined annual payroll of more than $775 million. There is also a growing high technology sector in the Oklahoma City economy, with more than 400 companies employing 30,000 in the fields of high technology, information technology, and software development.

As one of the nation's largest processing centers for a variety of farm products, the city is home to the world's largest stocker and feeder cattle market. Horses are also big business in Oklahoma City, stretching back to the region's days as a key cattle center and gateway to westward expansion. The city is known as the Horse Show Capital of the World for the nine major national and international horse shows held annually. Many large oil and energy-related companies have headquarters or major branches in the city. Other present and projected future growth industries include fabricated metal, computers, clothing, oil-field equipment, crude oil, back office, distribution and food processing.

Items and goods produced: motor vehicles, food products, steel, electronic devices, computers, oil-well supplies, paper products, rubber tires

Incentive Programs—New and Existing Companies

Local programs

The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Division provides full-service expansion and/or new business services. The Oklahoma City's Development Center offers one-stop shopping for permits, inspections, and building guidelines. The mission of the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center is to provide high quality one-to-one business counseling, economic development assistance, and training to small businesses and prospective small businesses. Many zones and neighborhoods of Oklahoma City have been designated as Federal Empowerment Zones that offer incentives to businesses looking to start-up or relocate. Incentives include tax credits of up to $3,000 for each employee newly hired or already on the payroll who lives and works in the zone; tax-exempt facility bonds to finance property, equipment and site development; and increased expense deductions of up to $35,000 for depreciable assets acquired during the first year.

State programs

The innovative Oklahoma Quality Jobs Program is a method to allow businesses that are creating large numbers of new quality jobs to receive a special incentive to locate or expand in Oklahoma. It is an easy-access program that provides direct payment incentives (based on new wages paid) to companies for up to ten years. The Investment/New Jobs Tax Credit Package provides growing manufacturers a significant tax credit based on either an investment in depreciable property or on the addition of full-time-equivalent employees engaged in manufacturing, processing, or aircraft maintenance. Other key Oklahoma incentives include a five-year ad valorem tax exemption, sales tax exemptions, freeport exemption, foreign trade zones, financing programs, export assistance, government contracting assistance, and limited industrial access road assistance. With reference to industrial financing programs, Oklahoma has simplified the laws governing businesses incorporated in the state. Oklahoma's new company legislation, based on the Delaware model, simplifies the procedures for incorporating businesses in the state and gives boards of directors more authority and flexibility in determining capital structures of companies.

Job training programs

The city's Office of Workforce Development administers the federal Workforce Investment Act program. Services include skills assessment, basic skills and GED instruction, career planning and counseling, tuition assistance, and job search assistance. Workforce Oklahoma, also created under the federal Workforce Investment Act, is a new training and education development system that partners business leaders, educators, and employment professionals to achieve job growth, employee productivity, and employer satisfaction. This system includes a network of 52 statewide offices called Workforce Oklahoma Centers, where employment, education, and training providers integrate a wide range of services that benefit both employers and employees. Customized industrial training programs, at no cost to the employer, are provided by the Oklahoma State Department of Vocational and Technical Education.

Known nationwide for its excellence, Oklahoma's Career and Technology Education system provides customized employer training and gives Oklahomans of all ages the opportunity to learn advanced technical skills they can put to use in the workforce. The centerpiece of the effort is the Training for Industry Program or TIP, which is offered free to new and expanding companies. Career Tech works closely with the business to develop a program that meets the company's needs and prepares their new workforce for success. To date, TIP has served over 1,700 companies including Boeing, MCI WorldCom, American Airlines, Goodyear, General Motors, Whirlpool, America Online, Southwest Airlines, Lucent Technologies, Mutual of Omaha, Bama Foods, Best Buy, Armstrong and Xerox.

Development Projects

Several cultural, educational, tourist, and sports-related Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS), from investments totaling more than a quarter billion dollars, were approved and built in Oklahoma City in the late 1990s and early in the new century. New projects included the 20,000-seat Ford Center arena, the aforementioned ballpark and riverwalk in Bricktown, and a vintage-style trolley system that makes getting around the downtown area much easier. MAPS also included extensive renovations to the Myriad Convention Center, State Fair Park, and the Civic Center. The $30 million Oklahoma City National Memorial and Memorial Museum, a 30,000 square foot memorial park, museum, and anti-terrorism institute, was dedicated on April 19, 2000, five years to the day after a terrorist bombing claimed the lives of 168 people at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building downtown.

Development has been brisk in Oklahoma City in the beginning of the 21st century. The Oklahoma City Metropolitan Area Public Schools Trust was approved by voters in 2002 to earmark $470 million for a massive, 100 project, 10-year effort to make Oklahoma City schools a national model for urban education reform. In 2004 the city rezoned property at the northern tip of Lake Stanley Draper for a proposed commercial and recreational development project that would include a 36-hole golf course, retail stores, and RV and camping grounds. The Civic Center Music Hall was recently renovated into a modern performance center for the Downtown Arts District; nearby stands the new Oklahoma City Museum of Art, featuring Dale Chihuly's 55-foot glass sculpture, as well as the new Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library. The Bricktown riverwalk area features shops and restaurants in turn-of-the-century industrial buildings; a new Bass Pro Shop and 16-screen theater add to the district's entertainment scene. Towering over Bricktown is the SBC Bricktown Ballpark, home of the Oklahoma RedHawks Triple A baseball team. Work continues on a Bricktown East canal, where 45 larger-than-life statues will depict those settlers who made the April 22, 1889 Oklahoma Land Run.

Economic Development Information: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, 123 Park Avenue, Oklahoma City, OK 73102; telephone (405)297-8900; fax (405)297-8916. Oklahoma Department of Commerce, Office of Business Location Division, PO Box 26980, Oklahoma City, OK 73126-0980; telephone (405)815-6552

Commercial Shipping

Freight such as grain, minerals, and steel products are shipped at low cost via the McClellan Kerr River Navigation System, which offers access to the Mississippi River. The Port of Catoosa is only 140 miles from Oklahoma City. Many area motor freight carriers, two major railroads offering Class I and Class III service by 20 rail operators, and five nearby airports serve the region's shipping needs. Trucking is made convenient by the city's central location at Interstate Highways I-35, I-40, and I-44.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

Oklahoma City boasts a productive labor force with a strong work ethic. Absenteeism, work stoppages, and turnover levels are below average. Present and future growth areas include, among others, such diverse fields as aircraft, fabricated metal, computers, clothing, oil-field equipment and crude oil, back office, distribution, and food processing. A growing high-technology sector now employs more than 30,000 in Oklahoma City; key high-tech firms include Lucent Technologies with more than 4,800 employees and Dell Inc., which broke ground in late 2004 on a 120,000 square-foot facility that will employ more than 700 people in a new customer contact center.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Oklahoma City metropolitan area labor force, 2003 annual averages.

Size of nonagricultural labor force: 531,700

Number of workers employed in . . .

natural resources and mining: 6,900

construction: 22,200

manufacturing: 38,000

trade, transportation and utilities: 96,500

information: 13,400

financial activities: 34,400

professional and business services: 65,900

educational and health services: 66,600

leisure and hospitality: 52,200

other services: 27,800

government: 107,800

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $14.24

Unemployment rate: 3.7% (December 2004)

Oklahoma City: Economy

Largest employers Number of employees
State of Oklahoma 38,100
Tinker Air Force Base 26,000
U.S. Postal Service 8,706
University of Oklahoma 7,902
Oklahoma City Public Schools 5,900
US FAA Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center 5,600
City of Oklahoma City 5,320
INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center 4,102
General Motors Corp. 3,400

Cost of Living

The following is a summary of data regarding several key cost of living factors for the Oklahoma City area.

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $209,232

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 91.8 (U.S. average = 100.0)

State income tax rate: Ranges from 0.5% to 6.75%

State sales tax rate: 4.5%

Local income tax rate: None

Local sales tax rate: 3.875%

Property tax rate: Varies due to city limits that extend into different counties and school districts; for example, the rate in school district #89 is $57.84 (2004)

Economic Information: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, 123 Park Avenue, Oklahoma City, OK 73102; telephone (405)297-8900; fax (405)297-8916