In Oklahoma, 2022 is shaping up to be a year of building on the momentum that started in 2021.
Last year, northeast Oklahoma saw the creation of 4,125 jobs and $421 million in capital investment, supported by Tulsa's Futures, the public-private economic development partnership led by the Tulsa Regional Chamber.
In addition, electric car manufacturer Canoo announced plans to build a $400 million factory on 400 acres in Pryor that will support 2,375 new jobs. Other industrial, manufacturing and tech jobs added more than 1,000 jobs to the state.
In his State of the State Address this month, Gov. Kevin Stitt said he's focused on "making Oklahoma the most business-friendly state in the nation." His plan for this is two-fold: improving workforce development and tax reform.
"Our state's workforce needs to grow at the same pace as our businesses," Stitt said in his address. "Our entire education system must be aligned and motivated to meet this challenge head on. Let's tear down the silos between K-12, Career Techs and Higher Ed to train the next generation. Every student needs to be college ready or career ready."
He added, "My vision is to create a taxpayer protection plan that responsibly lowers income taxes according to our state revenue. Cutting taxes based on how our economy grows ensures we'll always have money to pay for core services like education and roads and bridges."
Stability is the word of the year, said Greg Wheeler, BOK Financial's® Oklahoma City market president.
"Oklahoma City is a very stable market," he said. "It doesn't bounce very high, so it doesn't drop very low. It's a very stable growth market. And I think that's true for the entire state."
Specialized industries attracting workers
Oklahoma metro areas are growing. Oklahoma City grew by more than 100,000 from 2010 to 2020 and the Tulsa metro area passed the 1 million population mark for the first time in 2021.
Specialized industry jobs in aerospace, biotech and government, along with a low cost of living, are driving the population growth.
"These specialized opportunities attract people, businesses and start-ups," Wheeler said.
No city is immune to supply chain or inflation woes, he said, but a silver lining in Oklahoma is the increase in per capita income.
"Our state's population is over 4 million now and our average per capita income is around $58,000 per year," he said. "Which is up from $42,000 in 2016. So, we have a lot more expendable income as a population because of that inflation, growth and a state-wide focus on building a more diverse economy."
With programs like Tulsa Remote offering grants for remote workers to relocate, Oklahoma is also taking advantage of the trend of workers moving out of coastal cities. David Stratton, Oklahoma Corporate Banking Director for BOK Financial, added that the Tulsa metro has also seen incubator, recruitment and other job creation organizations bring new talent to the city.
With new residents comes demand for housing.
"We haven't seen the big ups and downs that the national market has, but we've seen a steady climb," he said. "Housing costs have gone up, and more importantly, so have values. That's hugely important here in Oklahoma. The biggest asset most families have is their house—so when the value of that house increases, so does their wealth."
Stratton said the cost of living remains a huge appeal for Oklahoma.
"Our cost of living is exceedingly low compared to other markets," Stratton said. "That has been, and will continue to be, a significant draw to the state for both individuals and businesses."
"It's not all rainbows, but I'm cautiously optimistic," Wheeler said. "Oklahoma is making some advances towards a zero income tax rate, our property taxes are extremely low and those things factor into long-term growth. I think if we can maintain where we are and make some additional investments in our state infrastructure plus lower our tax liabilities, that will help to continue our stable growth."
Stratton echoed that sentiment, adding that inflation and supply chain challenges are the big unknowns right now, but the state's strong momentum supports an optimistic outlook.