Tulsa lauded as strong city
BY LAURIE WINSLOW World Staff Writer
Saturday, October 24, 2009
10/24/09 at 8:13 AM
The oil and gas industry has played a key role in helping Tulsa weather the recession, according to a new BusinessWeek study that ranks the metro area near the top of the 40 strongest in the nation.
Tulsa ranked No. 7 on the list, with BusinessWeek's editors also noting the community's solid housing market. Oklahoma City was No. 3.
Using data and analysis from the Brookings Institution's new MetroMonitor study, BusinessWeek.com selected the 40 top economies based on job growth, employment, economic growth and home prices.
"This ranking, as have the many accolades Tulsa has received this year, validates what we've been saying about the strength of our regional economy," Mike Neal, president and CEO of the Tulsa Metro Chamber, said in e-mailed comments.
"Tulsa's low cost of doing business, our low cost of living, positive job creation, development projects like the BOK Center and downtown ballpark, and announcements like the WNBA and Arena Football 1 headquarters are telling the world that Tulsa is open for business and we are thriving despite the national recession."
He noted that recognitions from national publications give Tulsa a competitive edge for recruiting new businesses and workers.
Although no metropolitan area entirely avoided the economic downturn, the most resilient areas were protected by a potent mix of recession-resistant jobs, the magazine states. The strongest economies never saw their housing prices get out of control.
Several factors have helped Oklahoma's metro areas, including the fact that the state entered the recession much later than most others, explained Steve Agee, professor of economics at Oklahoma City University and chairman of the Oklahoma City branch board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
While the state's unemployment rate essentially doubled from 3.2 percent in February 2008 to 6.7 in September, last month's rate dropped from 6.8 percent in August and was the fifth-lowest in the nation.
Although September data for the state's metro areas haven't been released, the Tulsa area's August jobless rate climbed to 7.1 percent — its highest in more than 15 years.
"When people say we're recession-proof, that's nonsense," Agee said. "We're not recession-proof, but, relatively speaking, when you look at the rest of the country we're so much better off — No. 1 because we started off at a better position."
Neither Oklahoma metro area had the housing bubble that the rest of the country experienced. Oklahoma bankers, who learned their lessons during the 1980s, also haven't seen their banks fail as many others have throughout the country.
"We had a very strong oil and gas energy economy and a strong agriculture commodity-based economy up until about the third quarter of last year, and then it started to really affect us," Agee said.
Although oil prices fell off dramatically, they have climbed back to around $80 a barrel, which is good for the state's economy. Both Oklahoma City and Tulsa have some prominent energy companies, including Williams Cos Inc. in Tulsa and Devon Energy Corp. and Chesapeake Energy Corp. in Oklahoma City, Agee said.
Also, the weaker dollar abroad has helped Oklahoma manufacturers who export goods.
When all these pieces are pulled together, it makes sense that Tulsa and Oklahoma City rank high, Agee said.
Russell Evans, director of Oklahoma State University's Center for Applied Economic Research, pointed out that the government is the largest employer in the state and that during this recession there has been a lot of stimulus money and government employment.
Although Oklahoma has lost about 52,000 jobs over the course of the recession, it has gained about 7,600 government jobs through the first quarter of 2009, which has helped offset losses in the private sector.
1. San Antonio
2. Austin-Round Rock, Texas
3. Oklahoma City
4. Little Rock-N. Little Rock-Conway, Ark.
5. Dallas-Fort Worth-arlington, Texas
6. Baton Rouge, La.
8. Omaha, Neb.-Council Bluffs, Iowa
9. Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas
10. El Paso, Texas
Laurie Winslow 581-8466