By Bob Funk, Sr.
Two thoughts this month:
1) Thank you Oklahoma for recognizing our brands as staffing and ranching leaders in our great state. It is a great privilege and tremendous honor to work closely with statewide business leaders, entrepreneurs, ranching colleagues, nonprofit leaders, faith leaders, legislators, media and associates.
2) With this in mind, let’s address the question I’ve been asked for nearly 50 years: “Why Oklahoma?”
The “Why Oklahoma?” question comes up often from business leaders, CEO colleagues, clients and franchisees ranging from Alberta to Zurich.
I reply with a smile and briefly outline why Express Employment Professionals; Express Ranches and our other enterprises enjoy Oklahoma City for their world headquarters.
Let’s outline a few reasons Oklahoma is the perfect location for a start-up business and/or delivers a pro-business environment for corporate growth, international scale and significant profits. While the energy-centric state economy takes its licks in oil pricing cycles, most business owners remain unaffected. In fact, Oklahoma Temporary Staffing sees an improved labor market after energy sector layoffs.
While Oklahoma's unemployment rate is still low, many people are looking for work and businesses are eager to offer it to them. Most of these business owners can attest to the tangible advantages to owning and operating a business in Oklahoma – from the state's extremely low cost of living to manageable taxation to a reasonable pool of entrepreneurs with money to invest in their companies/other companies.
Highlighted Advantages for Operating a Business in Oklahoma
Low cost of living
By far the most cited benefit of doing business in Oklahoma is the low cost of living. Overhead expenses are dramatically reduced, and employee compensation is extremely affordable, particularly because of the low housing costs. According to Sperling's Best Places, the average cost of living in Oklahoma is 84 percent that of the national average, with housing as the largest contributor to its low cost. On Sperling's list, national averages are equal to 100, and Oklahoma's housing costs ranked 63.
"Our associates enjoy the low cost of living and affordable real estate costs," Dusty Jackson, co-founder of Reinsurance Specialties said. "The American dollar goes a long way in housing, transportation, recreation and entertainment."
"One of the comments we hear from our international investors is ‘we are always impressed with the entrepreneurial spirit coming out of Oklahoma.”, Joshua Fahrenbruck, Vice President of Humphreys Capital, said.
Access to labor
Oklahoma boasts a relatively low unemployment rate which typically ranges from 3.5 to 5 percent (the high is notoriously linked to layoffs in the oil and gas industry). However, many entrepreneurs benefit from these layoffs as freed up labor comes with impressive skill sets, great work ethic and affordable talent. These elements make hiring easier.
"In recent years, Oklahoma has had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country," Roy Williams, President & CEO of the Greater OKC Chamber, said. "The labor market moves toward a flatter representation and healthy equilibrium when our state experiences layoffs in the oil and gas market."
Low taxes and simple regulations
Another benefit of operating in Oklahoma is the straightforward regulations. Entrepreneurs in the Sooner State report easy-to-navigate regulations that made setting up a new business or expanding an existing one a simple process.
"Our managers seek to proactively grow the business and reach collective goals versus deals with paperwork and unnecessary regulations," Jake Fisher, President of Bridges Strategies. "Our state effectively and impressively ‘gets out of the way’ of pro-business entrepreneurs."
In addition to the friendly regulatory framework, Oklahomans enjoy modest tax rates. The state's corporate income tax stands at six percent, while the sales tax is 4.5 percent of a business's gross receipts. The personal income tax rate in Oklahoma has a top marginal rate of 5.25 percent, and there is no capital gains tax. All in all, Oklahoma's tax policy is not particularly burdensome for most small business owners.
"We work to create a thriving and robust work environment in Oklahoma City and the rest of the state. We are proud of our progress relative to pro-business policies and accessible opportunities to help companies hire, grow and succeed," Williams said.
Express Employment Professionals of Oklahoma (OTS) is the second largest employer in the state behind the State of Oklahoma
Access to capital
Small businesses in Oklahoma used to have difficulty to finding, attaining capital compared with larger and more active markets. But many niche companies and visionary leaders are having success securing financing – and with less red tape and high-hurdle terms than creditors, equity partners in New York City and Silicon Valley. "One may think access to capital is difficult in Oklahoma due to the lack of sophisticated investment networks;" Williams added. "However, if a business shows promise, capital is available and many Oklahomans venture capitalists and home offices are approachable to creative business plans with new ideas.”
"Venture capital is available in Oklahoma," Smith said. "But entrepreneurs need to leverage relationships and expand their network to make pitches and secure equity financing."
The oil and gas industry represents roughly 10 percent of Oklahoma's annual gross domestic product in Oklahoma and this is still a great state to launch an energy-related enterprise. However, the state is having success in totally different sectors ranging from Real Estate to Technology to Aviation to Tourism. Case in Point: The beautiful parks near Broken Bow, Oklahoma are receiving more than a million visitors annually (those looking for a brief pilgrimage into tranquil mountains and escape the stress of
life in Dallas, Fort Worth and other metropolitan centers). And Oklahoma’s Aerospace industry (in OKC alone) produces $11.6 billion annually. OKC’s new aerospace study estimates there are 291 public and private sector firms employing 43,250 workers in the region.
Bonus: Mighty friendly people
I am not sure you can place a dollar amount on friendliness, manners, polite people and ‘smiles’…but it goes a long way in loving your home town culture. Oklahomans are known to be friendly, laid-back and good-natured – and we're famous for our hospitality.
And the many charitable organizations I am blessed to support – from FFA to OYE to OKACTE to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum – show incredible appreciation and sincere gratefulness in being recognized and rewarded for their difference-making work.
I am sure most if not all US states market their value proposition in the business development space. In my mind (and reflecting on nearly 50 years of experience), you cannot go wrong placing your business stakes in the Oklahoma soil to start or you’re your business enterprises. Low cost of living, access to talent, low taxation and lots of smiling and skilled people go a long way in creating a tangible pro-business environment. If you agree, like, reply and share your story on my Facebook site https://www.facebook.com/BobFunkSr.