Oklahoma is quickly becoming the “go to” destination for both national and international business as our pro-growth reforms continue to attract new jobs and investment.
As other states have struggled to recover from the recession, Oklahoma’s momentum continues to push business in the state forward. For example, in a recently conducted national survey of more than 275,000 small-business owners, Oklahoma ranked as the third-best state in the nation for small business creation, receiving an A or A+ for the ease of starting a small business, cost of hiring a new employee and friendliness of regulations and tax code.
With several recent expansions — Google Boeing, ASCO, Baker Hughes and Schlumberger just to name a few — Oklahoma is also proud to have achieved one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation at 4.8 percent. Ranked the number one state in manufacturing job growth and number two in overall job growth, more than 38,000 jobs were created in Oklahoma over the past year, nearly recovering to pre-recession levels. Oklahoma leads by example in what it means to provide a pro-business climate for its people.
Oklahoma is earning national recognition through our efforts to enact pro-business policies that have created an environment friendly to job creation.
Our reforms to the workers’ compensation system and landmark lawsuit reforms are helping to lower the cost of doing business in our state.
Our government modernizations are saving tax dollars while also improving ‘customer service’ at state agencies.
Strong fiscal management in Oklahoma helped us reach well-balanced budgets and increase our rainy-day reserve fund from just $2.00 to more than $589 million in 18 months.
In addition, our efforts to increase the number of college graduates and degree certificate-holders will help us provide the highly skilled and educated workforce employers need to compete globally.
Other pro-business initiatives in Oklahoma that have pushed our economy forward include the statewide FallinForBusiness.com survey. This online survey is home to the largest statewide survey of businesses ever conducted in Oklahoma, where 5,376 executives representing companies that employ 250,000 Oklahomans responded to questions about the business climate. Results showed that 78 percent of business leaders expressed optimism about the future of business in the state. In addition, more than 69 percent of the Oklahoma business leaders who took the survey plan to hire new employees in the next three years.
Building upon our strongest industry clusters, including manufacturing, energy, aerospace and aviation, Oklahoma is also looking forward to continued success from its well-established Quality Jobs Program, in which qualifying establishments creating new quality jobs receive an incentive to locate or expand in Oklahoma. To date, more than $775 million in performance-based wage rebates has been paid because of the Quality Jobs Program.
We did not stop with job creation. Taking employment in Oklahoma a step further, we are matching potential employees with jobs that have been created in the state. Our new free website, www.OKJobMatch.com, will match job seekers with employers that are a fit for them using a simple question-and-answer format.
As the economy has started to improve, our focus has now shifted from job creation to finding a talented workforce with education and skills needed to complete the tasks these new jobs require. The site also has a specific function that helps returning veterans looking for employment.
Last year was an inspiring time for our state and we look forward to the continued momentum of our business climate in 2012.
Oklahoma is honored to have received CNBC’s recognition in the 2011 rankings as a top-three state for cost of living and a top-four state for economy, and we look forward to being a top state for business in CNBC’s, “America’s Top States for Business 2012,” report.