Talented People are Flocking to OKC

When nerdwallet ranked Oklahoma City as the #1 place to start a business, one of the most crucial factors was the availability good talent in the population.

How Easy Will It Be For Your Business To Find The Right Person For The Job? Read on to find out…

In addressing that issue, they wanted to know “Will hiring be easy?” To answer that question, they established two important metrics. The first was to examine population growth, since a growing populace ensures that there will be an ample supply of applicants for positions that businesses need to fill. However, just having more than enough warm bodies doesn’t guarantee that they also have the skill sets to match those openings. So, the second metric they established was to research whether the population was well-educated. On both of these measures, Oklahoma City proved to be one of their best cities to start a business.

Population Growth

Businesses benefit from population growth in two ways. One, of course, is that more people mean more customers. That gets tempered by the fact that an increase in population must also be matched by an increase in expendable income and that in turn is often impacted by the level of education of the populace. The second way that businesses benefit from population growth is a subsequent growth in the pool of qualified applicants. That gets tempered by the fact that the increase must yield a sufficient number of people that are good matches for the job openings and that in turn is often impacted by the level of education of the populace. Obviously, education is important whether you look through the lens of sufficient customers or sufficient employees, but we’ll get to that shortly.

As of the 2000 U.S. Census, the population of Oklahoma City was 507,000 and as of 2014, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates the population at 621,000.  That would be a 22% increase since 2000 and, just since 2010, the city has added over 40,000 people! No doubt the pool of people calling the city home has continued to increase year after year for the past couple decades. It’s no wonder that CNN Money recently listed the metropolitan Oklahoma City area as the 9th fastest growing region in the country. What’s even more significant is the fact that the median age of this population is a very youthful 33.8 years old—good news for those looking to train their workforce for the long-term.

Looking forward through 2075, the future looks very bright as well. The Oklahoma Department of Commerce predicts that the city’s Metropolitan Statistical Area will nearly double in population during the next 60 years. As a recent article in the National Review points out clearly in their headline, “Americans are voting with their feet and moving to business-friendly cities.” OKC is one of those destination cities and as the article states, “Oil and tech are part of that story, but only part; there’s a dynamism there lacking elsewhere.” What is the dynamism drawing people to this city that is the “Pride of the Plains?” After all, in their online publication “Free Enterprise” the U.S. Chamber of Commerce saw OKC as an “enigma” in that it doesn’t have a particularly temperate climate or an abundantly lavish landscape.

Yet, as noted in the Chamber’s article, young people are moving to OKC in great numbers and unlike cities that grew due to an influx of retirees, Oklahoma City has become a place to which young and educated workers have gravitated. This is evidenced by the fact that their share of the population has increased during this time, and not the least of which due to the fact that the city has benefitted from a forward-looking mayor, Mike Cornett. He’s been in office since 2004 and has been remaking Oklahoma City into a healthier place by creating more walking spaces, parks, and recreational areas through quality-of-life programs such as MAPS 3, which he promoted at a 2013 TED talk—which, of course, is the premier Technology, Entertainment and Design conference among Millennials.

Well-educated Populace

A recent article in City Observatory—“a website and think tank devoted to data-driven analysis of cities and the policies that shape them”—the share of Oklahoma City residents aged 25 to 34 who had a four-year degree increased from 25% in 2000 to 32% in 2012. Across the country, these 25 to 34 year-olds, with a bachelor’s degree or higher level of education, are increasingly moving to the close-in neighborhoods of the nation’s large metropolitan areas, such as OKC, and fueling economic growth and urban revitalization. Add to this the fact that 83% of the OKC population have a high school diploma and that over a quarter of the population (27%) has a bachelor’s degree or higher, the prospect for business hiring is certainly bright, as is the city’s educated future.

Given the success of the first and visionary Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS) back in 1993 to improve the city, a second MAPS initiative—MAPS for Kids—was put in place in 2001 and thus virtually ensured that there will be a steady stream of well-educated children graduating from the city’s schools. When the last facility was built in 2013, the program constructed and renovated 70 Oklahoma City Public School buildings and provided funding for school facility improvements, technology, and transportation projects. With far-sighted programs such as Maps 3, which was recently implemented and expected to be completed in 2021, the city should be comfortable in knowing that these well-educated kids will remain in Oklahoma City as they become the city’s next well-educated workforce.