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Tulsa: Economy


Major Industries and Commercial Activity

Tulsa's central location in the United States makes it a desirable place to locate nearly any type of business, from manufacturing to retail, telecommunications, and service-oriented industries. Operating costs generally run well below the national average. According to a 2004 study published by Forbes magazine, the Tulsa metropolitan area ranks as the third lowest metro area in terms of cost-of-living in the United States.

Tulsa was literally the "Oil Capital of the World" from the early 1920s until World War II. By the time the companies moved operations closer to offshore production, Tulsa had begun to develop the aircraft and aerospace industry, which is now the region's largest industry. Today Tulsa has more than 300 aviation-related companies, contributing to more than 32,000 Tulsa jobs and 140,000 statewide jobs in aviation. The industry generates $960 million in annual payroll and contributes an additional $3.3 billion annually to the region. In addition, two insurance companies are major employers, as are major manufacturers such as Ford Glass and Whirlpool. Three car rental company headquarters and a major car rental reservation center are located in Tulsa. Telecommunications is also a major industry, employing about 15,000 people annually.

In early 1971, Tulsa opened the Tulsa Port of Catoosa on the Verdigris River, thereby becoming a major inland port along the 445-mile McClellan-Kerr Navigation System. The port provides low-cost shipping for such products as oil, coal, fertilizer, and grain to the Mississippi River, and from there on to the Great Lakes or the Gulf of Mexico and around the world.

In 2004 the Tulsa Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) had a gross product of $27.1 billion, about one-third of the Oklahoma economy. Healthcare has become big business in Tulsa, employing over 30,000 people and contributing $1.4 billion in payroll income to the Tulsa economy. Employment figures reveal Tulsa industries as major employers on the national scene. The Tulsa MSA ranks nationally in the areas of aircraft engines and aircraft, ranked 6th and 17th respectively; oil and gas products and services, ranked 7th; fabricated platework, ranked 2nd; metal pumps, ranked 4th; and hoists and cranes, fabricated metal pipe, and laundry and cleaning appliances all ranked 3rd.

Items and goods produced: airplane parts, appliances, metal pipes and pumps, fiber optics, meat, feed, boilers, burners, fishing rods, natural gas

Incentive Programs—New and Existing Companies

Local programs

The Tulsa Port of Catoosa has been designated an Enterprise Zone and can offer businesses tax credits for job creators, tax exemptions of up to 6 years for qualifying businesses, and low-interest loans. Most incentive programs are at the state level.

State programs

In 2002 Oklahoma became the nation's 22nd state to adopt the Right-to-Work law, creating a business friendly environment that has directly benefited state workers. State officials credit the law with creating 94 percent more jobs due to start-ups and expansions, as well as raising average hourly wages for workers in manufacturing and bringing the state to the lead in household income growth. In 2004 Pollina Real Estate Corporation ranked Oklahoma third in the nation in its list of Top Ten Pro-Business States. The Oklahoma Tax and Incentives Guide, published by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, summarizes state tax advantages and business incentives. For instance, Oklahoma's Quality Jobs Program pays cash payments up to five percent of payroll to companies that create new jobs in the state. It is targeted toward manufacturers and certain service companies that have a new payroll investment of $2.5 million or more. A lower payroll threshold is available for certain food processing and research and development projects or as a result of location in targeted areas. Investment/Jobs Income Tax Credit and Construction Sales Tax Refunds Package is geared primarily toward manufacturing. It allows a five-year tax credit on the greater of one percent per year of investment in qualified new depreciable property or a credit of $500 per year per qualified new job. The Sales Tax Refunds are available on construction materials for certain manufacturers and aircraft maintenance repair facilities; on purchases of computers, data processing equipment for certain aircraft facilities; and for purchases of computer services and data processing for qualified computer services or research and development companies. Additional incentives include five-year ad valorem tax exemption for manufacturing, research and development, certain computer/data services, and certain distribution services; customized employee training; key sales tax exemptions; Freeport Law; Industrial Access Road Assistance; Foreign Trade Zones; and financing through various programs and agencies.

Job training programs

Customized industrial training programs, at no cost to the employer, are provided by the Oklahoma State Department of Vocational and Technical Education. Management training is also available through vocational-technical schools at 48 sites statewide.

Development Projects

Tulsa voters approved a one-cent sales tax increase in 2003 to fund several Tulsa 2025 initiatives; the fund would create tax incentives that would benefit two key area employers—Boeing and American Airlines, among others. Of the $885 million, nearly 40 percent was earmarked as incentives for Boeing Corp. to land the final assembly plant for Boeing's new 7E7 jetliner. Another $22.3 million in incentives was slotted to retain and expand American Airlines' Tulsa maintenance center. The proposal also designates 40 percent of the penny tax, or $350.3 million, for economic development, education, and updates to the highly valuable Tulsa County EXPO Square facility and a new and modernized convention and events center to sustain and grow Tulsa's meeting and events industry. The remaining 17.5 percent, or $157.4 million, would go toward community enrichment projects ranging from two low water dams, to new soccer fields, parks, museums, swimming pools, and community centers. The low water dams stand to enrich the development of Tulsa's Arkansas River, which runs next to the downtown region and connects Tulsa's suburban communities.

Economic Development Information: Metropolitan Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, 616 S. Boston, Suite 100, Tulsa, OK 74119; telephone (918)585-1201. Oklahoma Department of Commerce, Office of Business Location Division, PO Box 26980, Oklahoma City, OK 73126-0980; telephone (405)815-6552

Commercial Shipping

The Tulsa Port of Catoosa is an inland port and foreign trade zone along the Arkansas River, with more than 2,000 acres of adjacent industrial parks. Barge tonnage through the port was more than 2.3 million tons in 2004. Five railroad systems network throughout the region.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

A 2002 Labor Market Survey commissioned by the Tulsa Metro Chamber revealed that the Tulsa region is a somewhat undiscovered area for employers seeking office, high-technology, distribution, and manufacturing labor. The local population is generally well-educated and growing, with the number of workers in the key 12-15 years of education range exceeding the national average. Tulsa workers were found to be above state and national averages in terms of computer and technology skills, experience, and diversity of skills. Professional and managerial talent can be recruited to the area with relative ease. Contributing to this favorable recruiting climate is a large number of students enrolled in and graduating from the region's post-secondary institutions. Tulsa has 6 technology centers and 4 two-year institutions that graduate 2,800 students annually, 8 four-year schools that graduate 4,800 annually, and one medical college. The overall payoff for employers is excellent, with labor costs at only about 75 percent of the national average. Present and future economic growth areas are primarily in the service and trade sectors, specifically reservations, data and credit card processing, telecommunications, aviation and aerospace, transportation, communications, and utilities.

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

Size of nonagricultural labor force: 381,400

Number of workers employed in . . .

natural resources and mining: 4,200

construction: 19,300

manufacturing: 45,900

trade, transportation and utilities: 81,000

information: 12,100

financial activities: 24,100

professional and business services: 47,600

educational and health services: 51,100

leisure and hospitality: 32,400

other services: 19,800

government: 44,000

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $16.65

Unemployment rate: 4.2% (December 2004)

Tulsa: Economy

Largest employers Number of employees
American Airlines 9,100
Tulsa Public Schools 7,000
City of Tulsa 4,220
St. Francis Hospital 4,100
St. John Medical Center 4,050
Bank of Oklahoma 2,520
Hillcrest Medical Center 2,350
Tulsa Community College 2,200

Cost of Living

In 2005 the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce reported that Tulsa's cost of living was 8% below the national average while per capita income was 11% above the national average. Tulsa remained below the national average in unemployment with gains in net new job growth.

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

2004 (3rd Quarter) Average House Price: $201,365

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 93.6 (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: 3.0% (county sales tax rate: 1.417%)

Property tax rate: the average effective tax rate for locally assessed property is about 1.0% of the value of the property (2005)

Economic Information: Metropolitan Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, 616 S. Boston, Suite 100, Tulsa, OK 74119; telephone (918)585-1201


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