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Business Services, Wind Power More Than "OK" for Oklahoma

Jun/Jul 08
"We are not seeing an economic decline in this region," says Sandy Pratt, director for business services for the Oklahoma Department of Commerce (ODOC). Statistics show 15,565 new jobs and $1.6 billion of investments in fiscal year 2007 (July 1 to June 30), and in fiscal year 2008 to date, 9,483 jobs were created at an investment of $1.4 billion.

"Data, service centers, business services, and IT operations have increased around the state," says Pratt. "Additional data center facilities are ready, for both smaller and larger companies." New data center projects include Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Enterprises' 60,000-square-foot, $16 million customer development center in Tulsa that will employ 300 people; international news company Gannett Co., Inc.'s Center of Excellence inbound customer service facility in Tulsa that will employ up to 500 people; and Google's new data center in Pryor to be staffed with 200 people earning an average annual salary of $48,000.

Diversity in energy industries keeps fuels an active sector. "Our huge cluster based on traditional oil and gas industries is still doing well," says Pratt, who adds that for wind, Oklahoma is ranked ninth in the United States in existing capacity and eighth in potential capacity. "Oklahoma has great capacity factors, meaning we can produce more energy per installed megawatt. According to the American Wind Energy Association's website, in installed capacity, only Texas (first) produces more energy than Oklahoma, and even California (second) doesn't produce as much electricity from wind power as Oklahoma does," she says.

North Dakota-based DMI Industries is locating a 500,000-square-foot wind tower manufacturing facility with 450 employees in Tulsa. Pratt notes that the Port of Catoosa in Northeast Oklahoma on the Arkansas River will provide access to the Mississippi River to facilitate shipment of the wind towers by barge to the Midwest or Gulf of Mexico.

Another traditional cluster, aerospace, includes more than 300 companies, 143,000 workers, and results in $11.7 billion in industrial output. Tulsa's aerospace engines manufacturing cluster is ranked eighth nationally. Tinker Air Force Base operates the largest facility for maintenance and repair of military aircraft and engines.

The bioscience cluster recently received a boost with the formation of the Oklahoma Bioscience Association. "We will be at the BIO conference in San Diego with a contingent of 80 state leaders and company executives," says Pratt. In this cluster, SouthWest Nanotechnologies has broken ground on a $3.9 million manufacturing plant in Norman that will produce nanotubes for use in flat panel displays and touch screens.