Business leaders express confidence in Oklahoma

During December and January, nearly 5,400 business leaders from all 77 counties responded to the Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin’s request for input on Oklahoma’s business climate. Their companies represent more than 250,000 jobs and more than 20 percent of Oklahoma’s total workforce in the business survey.

The large number of survey responses brings a high degree of confidence
in the survey results. 

"I want to thank all of the business owners and executives who took the time to respond to this survey,” Fallin said. “We asked in-depth questions about their opinions on a wide range of business development factors. We heard from businesses of all sizes, from all areas of the state. Their perspectives are vital to planning our economic future, and we appreciate their investment in our state.”

The margin of error for questions in the report
ranges from 0.9 percent to 1.6 percent, which is a 95 percent confidence
interval. Percentages of respondents are similar to state breakdowns
for industry, number of employees and geographic dispersion.

Secretary of Commerce and Tourism Dave Lopez said Commerce continues to explore the survey’s findings, talking to business and economic development leaders on in-depth issues dealing with business climate strengths and opportunities for improvement, workforce, business expansion and infrastructure, government services, and top challenges facing executives. This additional information will be released in a series of articles over the coming months. The first, Workforce Challenges and Opportunities, will be released on May 15.

Survey feedback will help state leaders identify and better understand the issues existing Oklahoma businesses think are most important to creating jobs and strengthening the state’s business climate.

“Survey findings show Oklahoma is far ahead of national projections in the essential area of business optimism,” Lopez said.

Oklahoma’s business optimism outperforms national rates by almost 20 percent. Seventy-eight percent (78 percent) of Oklahoma business leaders responding said they were optimistic about the future for business in Oklahoma and confident their business will grow in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma is also strong for Entrepreneurs, with 65 percent of Oklahoma business leaders who believe Oklahoma provides a good climate for entrepreneurs.

By contrast, national surveys indicate only 60 percent of U.S. business leaders are optimistic about the growth of their business in the next six months. [i]

“Existing businesses create more than 85 percent of the jobs in our state,” Lopez continued. “For these companies to report a confidence level that significantly exceeds national averages tells us we have a strong foundation for more future growth.”

The survey asked business owners and executives for feedback on the areas where Oklahoma excels. Respondents scored the state high for: quality of the higher education system (two- and four-year colleges and universities), access to supplies required to conduct business, CareerTech system’s workforce prep programs, affordable housing options for employees and recreational opportunities.

Oklahoma leaders also provided valuable feedback on opportunities for improvement. Survey respondents cited workers’ compensation costs as the number one area needing improvement, followed by access to sufficient public funding sources, business incentives, business assistance programs and business tax structure.

Oklahoma businesses are hiring. With Oklahoma’s low unemployment rates, it’s no surprise that 37 percent of state businesses report plans to hire in 2012, compared to 28 percent of national business leaders who expect to hire in the first six months of 2012.i When the time frame is spread out to three years, 69 percent of Oklahoma businesses expect to increase the size of their workforce.

Oklahoma businesses are growing. With 51 percent of state businesses expanding or upgrading existing locations in the next three years, 28 percent adding locations and more than 60 percent adding new products or services, Oklahoma companies are on a steady upward trend. This growth curve far surpasses the projected U.S. commercial expansion rate of only 3.3 percent.[ii]

Oklahoma leaders are positive on infrastructure. While CNBC ranks Oklahoma 35th for infrastructure and transportation, Oklahoma businesses are overwhelmingly favorable, with 84 percent reporting sufficient access to resources and infrastructure.

Oklahoma business leaders are less than positive about government services. More than half of company owners and executives do not believe future state legislation will have a positive impact on their businesses and that state employees treat businesses as valued customers. Only half believe the regulatory environment is business friendly.

Oklahoma executives list their top challenges. Survey respondents reported customer loyalty and retention as their top business challenge, followed by increasing sales and growth, managing corporate reputation, managing in an unpredictable economic climate and adapting to change.

The full survey report is posted at