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Startup companies are critical to job growth for Oklahoma, says Scott Meacham

Homegrown jobs offer benefits to Oklahoma's economic growth.
Oklahoman Published: March 12, 2013
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The bedrock of any vibrant, expanding economy is jobs. Jobs are the measure of success.

And we're achieving success in Oklahoma. Our state's 2.6 percent job growth rate was the third best in the nation. Our unemployment rate has dropped from 6.1 to 4.7 percent (June 2012) from the previous year.

There are three ways to grow jobs in a state. The first method — the one we hear the most about — is recruiting companies to move headquarters, manufacturing facilities or assembly plants to Oklahoma from other states. It's a competitive, costly and time-consuming process.

State and local economic development professionals have to build elaborate presentations based on volumes of data, propose significant incentives and often offer infrastructure improvements. The cost per job acquired can be significant.

A second, simpler, and more fertile way to add jobs is by growing existing businesses. In Oklahoma, more than 80 percent of all new jobs come from companies that already have a footprint here.

For these companies, economic development efforts are geared toward connecting existing business with support services, incentives and access to capital like the GrowOK Fund to help established firms expand and create jobs.

The third category of job creation is growing new businesses. If a state isn't growing new businesses, there won't be a pipeline of companies moving into the expanding business category. At i2E we spend most of our time growing new businesses in Oklahoma.

Creating new companies is every bit as important as growing existing firms and attracting jobs from other states. For long-term job growth, I would argue that new company starts are more important than the other two methods of economic development.

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