By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2014, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
Recently CNN Money reported that Oklahoma City earned first place in an annual ranking of the top 50 U.S. cities of the best place to launch a small business.
The ranking comes from NerdWallet, a firm that, in their words, is “the nerdy friend you can count on and trust, no matter your money question.”
I have to say that the name NerdWallet gave me a little pause, but then I figured that companies like CNN Money and The Wall Street Journal wouldn’t be quoting their “best of” reports if NerdWallet’s analysis wasn’t credible.
The study, which was conducted in May, scored cities on access to loans under $250,000, population growth, ease of hiring, per capita income, the unemployment rate and the number of businesses per 100 residents.
Another report, this one from Fast Company, placed Oklahoma City in the top 10 American cities for employee satisfaction.
In June, the Bureau of Economic Analysis listed Oklahoma as one of the top five fastest growing statewide economies with a year over year increase in GDP of 4.17 percent. This growth was driven by our traditional industries of oil, natural gas, and agriculture, as we might expect.
Those of us whose job it is to focus on growing the innovation economy aren’t directly involved in oil, gas, or agriculture — in fact, our mission is to help create companies that will diversify our economy so we are not as dependent on those sectors.
But these backbone industries give entrepreneurship here some great advantages.
They create wealth that can find its way into angel investing. They contribute to an increasingly technical work force. They build demand for innovation which gets satisfied by the advanced technology start-ups like Well Check, a Tulsa firm that addresses oil and gas well site production, safety, and security via remote monitoring. We recently closed a $1.4 million Series A preferred equity investment in Well Check.
Now those of us who live and work here don’t need studies and reports to tell us how great this place is. We know that Oklahoma has a lot going for it — economic momentum, a great quality of life and a low cost of living.
Plus core industries that are growing and producing tax revenues, as well as a stream of entrepreneurs and technologies starting new firms.
We also need to recognize that at a time like this, our state shouldn’t squander our economic good fortune but should, instead, be using it to help build our innovation economy of the future. That is why so many people find the continuing cuts by the legislature to economic development and innovation to be so disappointing and shortsighted.
Economic development is one of the fundamental goals of government. Oklahoma ought to apply more, not less, resources to the task.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at [email protected].