Oklahoma is big enough to matter, but small enough to get things done. A decade ago, as a twentysomething looking to start my own public relations/marketing agency, I felt like I could live anywhere in the United States. I had worked for a Washington D.C., public affairs shop, but I saw what the rat race and the long slog to the top looked like. I wanted the proverbial blue ocean, where I could differentiate myself, and where I could make a difference now.
Growing up in Oklahoma afforded me familiarity with the state, but it was opportunity that committed me. I saw something unique happening, and I wanted a piece of it. Ten years later, my upstart firm is one of the fastest-growing independent agencies in the nation. Our team likes to say "Oklahoma by Choice" when pitching business to out-of-state clients.
We love doing business in Oklahoma, and the choice part repeats itself often as we recruit others to join us. Talent continues to pour into the state, and government regulations are business-friendly and predictable. Oklahoma City, where we are headquartered, was ranked 12th in population growth in a recent study, with a growth rate 60 percent above the national average. Oklahoma's unemployment rate of 5 percent is more than three points better than California (8.6) and a point better than much ballyhooed Texas (6.5 percent). Oklahoma City has the nation's lowest unemployment rate at 4.6 percent and Tulsa at 5.5 percent.
(Read More: Why Oklahoma is the cheapest state to live in)
The economic success story of the past decade is well documented, but I'll humbly brag about a few highlights. Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath" told the story of Oklahomans moving to California, but a reverse trend is well under way that has seen a net migration in excess of 20,000 to Oklahoma from California in recent years.
Boeing has made Oklahoma a strategic division by moving jobs from Long Beach, Calif., and Wichita, Kan. General Electric announced in April that it would build a $110 million global research center in Oklahoma dedicated to driving innovation and technological advancements in the oil and natural gas sector. GE got help from pro-business Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, who used $3 million from the state's new "closing fund" to close the deal.
These companies and others utilize the state's Quality Jobs program, which provides tax credits in exchange for new hires.
Big brands are fun to name drop, but the real economic growth is by small businesses, many with entrepreneurial, non-energy-sector roots, like mine. Of the 38 Inc. 5000 privately held Oklahoma companies in 2012, only five are energy related, which shows nice diversity.
Energy still carries weight, and Oklahoma's energy sector is unique in that many of our public companies were homegrown start-ups themselves. Devon Energy, Chesapeake Energy, SandRidge Energy and Gulfport Energy (to name a few) have roots with an entrepreneur founder.
Other industries also are growing, like biosciences, manufacturing, professional services, health care and banking.
Oklahoma is a red state politically, and the Republican-led state Legislature has overhauled its workers' compensation system, which was regarded as one of the most punitive in the nation. The income tax rate will be under 5 percent by 2015 without major increases in property taxes as fees and increased income tax collections have risen.