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OKC Going Against National Trend in Jobless Numbers

Filed by Michael Cross in Feature, Local News, News.
July 7, 2011

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Oklahoma’s capitol city ranks number one in the nation for unemployment among large metropolitan and the growth continues.

In May, Oklahoma City went up slightly but stayed under 5% while the next closest major city, Washington, DC jumped up to 5.7%.

That’s compared to the national average, which is at 9.1%.

Construction Crews are working hard to finish a new 340,000 square foot outlet mall at Reno and Council in west Oklahoma City.

The Outlet Shoppes will house 100 retailers and employ more than a thousand people.

Horizon Group Properties is creating the new mall and Gina Slechta, Marketing VP, says building in Oklahoma City was a no-brainer.

“Oklahoma City doesn’t know what recession means, your economy here is very diverse. It’s very strong. You’re in the top ten in the United States with areas that are growing, and so the Oklahoma market is very exciting.”

So what made Oklahoma City the place to do business?

“Well, a lot of it’s luck.”

That’s Oklahoma City Chamber President Roy Williams who’s had a hand in getting many businesses to the central part of the state.

He says the city’s success really stems from investing in several different areas.

“Whether you look at a bioscience strategy, whether you look at aviation aerospace strategy, whether you look at a destination strategy, those are all parallel, in sequence strategic initiatives that have taken place in this community.”

Last year Oklahoma City was declared the most entrepreneurial city in the nation by the Kauffman Foundation with more start ups per capita.

Mayor Mick Cornett says the city’s ability to go against the national trend is almost unexplainable but much of the economic growth is accredited to the one-penny sales tax MAPS initiative passed by citizens in the early 90s.

“Certainly we wouldn’t have an NBA team today without maps just to draw one conclusion. We also wouldn’t have the tourism industry we have without maps because that allowed us to put the canal in the entertainment district and the ballpark in the entertainment district and fix up our performing arts center.”

And it’s not over.

Oklahoma City is currently working on the third installment of MAPS.

Cornett says he’s seeing more construction work in Oklahoma City than there’s been in nearly 100 years.

Officials with Creighton University out of Omaha, Nebraska are keeping a close eye on Oklahoma City and say it’s ranked favorably compared to national and regional cities.

Economics Professor Ernie Goss says what’s really striking is the metro’s booming tourist trade.

“The inflow of individuals from outside Oklahoma City, outside the state and for that matter outside the region who are coming in to Oklahoma City for entertainment, recreation and to see the city and see the state.”

It’s that tourism trade which keeps the 1,500 construction workers focused on getting the Outlet Shoppes open on time.

Gina Slechta says she’s getting the word out to avid shoppers in a 300-mile radius in the hopes of bring them here.

“We’ve already created quite a buzz in Wichita, Tulsa, and other areas around this. We know that people have been going to Texas to shop at the outlet centers well guess what Texas is going to start coming to Oklahoma City.”

Slechta says the most recent job fair saw more than 3,000 applicants looking to get hired and there are still openings.

The mall is scheduled to open August 5th.

Other companies making large hires include Boeing which has already started bringing 550 jobs to Oklahoma City from Long Beach, California.

Also, Oklahoma City officials are working with Cox TMI Wireless in an attempt to bring a 218-employee call center to the area.

One Response to “OKC Going Against National Trend in Jobless Numbers”

  1. Jake Sloan says:

    Great Article! Great Job, Mike, keep up the great work!

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