Tulsa Job Growth Outpacing Qualified Workers

Tuesday, January 25th 2011, 10:07 pm
By: News On 6

Dan Bewley, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- The economy and unity were the key themes Tuesday night as President Obama gave his annual State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress.

But the president's speech also focused on job growth.

He said there are five pillars to create jobs: innovation, education, infrastructure, reducing the deficit, and reforming the government.

More than a thousand new jobs have been announced in the Tulsa area in the past six weeks. From motors and pumps for the oil industry to the latest technology used on the battlefield.

1/19/2011 Related Story: High Tech Tulsa Company Develops Combat Tracking System

Job growth in northeastern Oklahoma, according to the Tulsa Metro Chamber of Commerce, is outpacing the supply of qualified employees.

"Avis, Spirit there are a number of those out there that are actually having some recruiting problems," Sheila Curley, with the Tulsa Metro Chamber of Commerce, said. "We need more people moving to Tulsa and taking some of these positions."

1/14/2011 Related Story: Spirit AeroSystems Adding 200 Jobs In Tulsa, Wichita

Sheila Curley credits the state's Quality Jobs program, which gives businesses a cash rebate of up to 10 percent for new jobs that average more than $94,000 a year.

"The state of Oklahoma's quality jobs program is actually one of the best in the nation. In fact, another number of states have modeled their incentives after ours," Curley said.

Despite the growth, the chamber said there's still work that needs to be done. For example, the city does not have its own incentive program and there's not any local money on the table to bring in more jobs.

"It's not necessarily on the city council or mayor, this is something that's bigger than them," Curley said. "This is something that would have to go to a vote of the people and create a fund, a designated fund, whether it's through a sales tax collection or some other mechanism."

Curley said the state's unemployment level is getting better, down to 6.8 percent, the lowest since last June, but she said for more jobs to be created the city and state need to show businesses that Oklahoma is a place where they can grow. That means lower costs and more tax incentives.

The chamber met with 600 companies over the last few months.  It says 80 percent report the economy is on the way up and half of them said they plan to add more jobs this year.