Oklahoma has enjoyed a pretty good string of successes over the last few years. Economic growth, cultural enhancements, community improvements, educational gains and corporate developments have been favorable. Being named the most “recession-proof” city in America by Forbes magazine is no small feat. We’ll likely test that accolade as the recession settles in, but the good news is we’re starting from a position of economic strength. Oklahoma has prospered while the national economy has suffered. Thankfully, Oklahoma’s energy industry has managed the current boom better than those of previous years.
Who would have thought oil prices could increase to nearly $150 a barrel, much less to fall back to around $60 within a matter of a few months? Oil guys laugh about trying to get by on $60 oil because many remember getting by when oil was $20 a barrel. High oil prices translated locally to a housing boom along with sales bumps in furniture, art and all the other things we put in our Oklahoma homes. Oklahoma retailers, along with our city, county and state government enjoyed the fruits of Oklahoma’s energy boom.
Oklahoma’s corporate real estate offerings have never been better. Attractive new large and small office buildings and corporate office parks have sprung up everywhere. The metro area has become home to dozens of new hotels. With the The Cheesecake Factory, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Romano’s Macaroni Grill, along with first-rate local operators such as Boulevard Steakhouse, Mahogany Prime Steakhouse, La Baguette Bistro, Sushi Neko and dozens of others, Oklahoma City is a different dining city than it was just a few years ago. Downtown Oklahoma City is enjoying a vibrancy not seen since the 1940s and 1950s!
Oklahoma business executives have given countless millions of dollars to charities, civic clubs, educational institutions and churches. Our rising tide lifted everyone’s boat. Perhaps most important, our educational offerings are better than ever.
Oklahoma’s national image has also improved over the last decade. Ironically, the federal building bombing, or, more correctly, the impressive way our state handled the tragedy, enhanced our state’s respectability. MAPS improved our fiscal and physical standing as well as the image and reputation of our city and state. Athletics and entertainment have given Oklahoma a new sense of pride.
We can also be thankful our political leaders seem desirous of more harmony. House and Senate Republicans and Democrats are coming together more frequently. Thankfully, our leaders seem to realize it is more about Oklahoma than about party affiliation. Perhaps it’s my rose-colored glasses or perhaps it’s the tinted reflection of the red earth against our beautiful blue sky that binds us together. It may just be we are becoming an even better state than many thought possible. These are just some of the many reasons to be thankful we live in Oklahoma.
Orza is dean of the Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University.