Three companies promise 830 jobs


Thursday, April 18th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6



OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Companies in Tulsa, Duncan and Muskogee have promised to create 830 jobs in the next 10 years under the Oklahoma Quality Jobs program.

The program, which provides quarterly cash payments of up to 5 percent of new taxable payroll, would give the companies a combined total of $12 million in cash benefits.

The John Zink Co. in Tulsa, which has nearly 700 employees, has agreed to hire 323 during the next 10 years. The company added the first 50 of those jobs last month. The company makes systems that reduce air pollution by burning off gas released in manufacturing.

Universal Fidelity Life Insurance Co. in Duncan pledged to increase its employee base from 110 to 417. President Jim Gray said the company has almost doubled from 60 employees in the past two years. He expects to hire the 307 employees within the next three years.

Gray said most of the new employees will be claims processors making about $25,000 a year.

``We believe this program will give us an opportunity to expand our operations, and we will get some financial rewards if we meet those goals,'' he said.

Training & Support Specialists Inc. of Muskogee, which designs projects for bulk material handling, had 46 employees when it joined the jobs program last month.

It has pledged to hire 200 employees and has already added nearly half of that amount. Owner Mark Grandstaff said he expects to have the rest of his pledge on the job within the next two months.

Grandstaff is expanding his entire operation by hiring field service technicians, shop mechanics and office staff. He expects the field technicians pay to begin at $25 to $30 an hour and shop workers to start at $15 to $20 per hour.

``One of the toughest things for a small company is controlling growth,'' he said. ``One of the main things that can kill a company is rapid growth.

``The Quality Jobs program has allowed us to grow and still maintain cash flow. Where we would have debt for five to seven years from growing like this, now we'll be debt free in 18 months.''

A total of 281 companies have used the Quality Jobs program and created 124,645 jobs since the program's inception in 1993.

The program has generated more than $5 billion in new payroll, according to the Commerce Department. The state also benefits from new state personal income tax, sales and other consumption tax receipts.

To qualify for the program, a company must be a central administrative office, manufacturer, research and development or a listed service company with 75 percent of total sales to out-of-state customers. Most companies must achieve a $2.5 million taxable payroll for any four consecutive quarters during the first 12 quarters in the program.

Member businesses also must offer basic health insurance coverage to all employees, and 80 percent of employees must work at least 25 hours per week.