Oklahoma: An In-Depth Look at the Southern States
The Southern states are thriving, thanks to entrepreneurs with innovative high-tech ideas, strong public and private investment, and enthusiastic support from state and local governments.
Mali R. Schantz-Feld (Southern Tech Sites 2007)
Oklahoma's high-tech sector bolstered the state's economy in 2005, according to a state profile by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). The Sooner State ranked fifth in the nation in high-tech job growth.
The FDIC report noted that Tulsa's aerospace cluster provides many of the state's high-tech jobs. Most of this sector's business is in maintenance, overhaul, and repair of military and commercial aircraft. According to the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, one in every 10 Oklahomans is employed in the aerospace industry, which provides more than 140,000 jobs, about $4.7 billion in payroll, and roughly $11.7 billion in industrial output.
New developments in biotechnology illustrate the state's diversification efforts. In January, Governor C. Brad Henry announced his proposal to create the Oklahoma Biotechnology Center to address the need to reduce the nation's dependence upon foreign oil, as well as to develop the state's economy, protect the environment, create high-paying jobs, and contribute to the revitalization of rural Oklahoma. The center would explore the development of feedstocks, collection and transportation, conversion technologies, and distribution, and would also educate farmers and ranchers regarding the successful transitioning to energy crops. The alternative energy sector is drawn to the state's ample production of crops, such as switchgrass and other native grasses related to alternative forms of energy. The University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University, and Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation are slated to be founding consortium members.
Ground also is being broken on revolutionary medical technologies. Construction of Oklahoma's first proton cancer treatment center - the 55,000-square-foot Oklahoma ProCure Treatment Center in Northwest Oklahoma City - is underway. Scheduled to open in 2009, the center is expected to create 100 full-time jobs with salaries averaging more than $100,000 per year. In addition, the Oklahoma University (OU) Cancer Institute is acquiring a proton therapy unit, placing the school among the nation's leading medical schools that utilize this therapy. At the OU Cancer Institute, an additional vault is being constructed for a second proton accelerator to be added as soon as demand for proton therapy increases. The new cancer institute facility is scheduled to be opened in 2009.
From the operating room to computer operations: Google is establishing a $600 million data center, also known as a "server farm," on 800 acres at the MidAmerica Industrial Park in Pryor Creek, 30 miles east of Tulsa. The firm expects to employ 100 people by the time the first building becomes operational next summer, and an additional 100 people when a second building is added shortly thereafter. Salaries will average $48,000 per year. This industrial park is not thirsty for new tenants - Gatorade chose this location last year for a $180 million, 1.4 million-square-foot energy drink plant that will soon reach an employment of 280 people.