In a totted tale of two capital cities, Austin, Texas, is bigger, bolder and brasher than Oklahoma City. An Austin newspaper columnist two years ago called Oklahoma City a “plop in the prairie where most of the downtown buildings are boring and cube-shaped.”
This was before completion of Devon Tower, the heights of which Austin is likely to never attain. Unlike the sarcastic scribe, chamber of commerce officials in the two cities display a mutual respect.
So we don't do “cool” like Austin? The limits of Oklahoma's capital are nevertheless boundless — if we work at it. A report from the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber summarizes the challenges facing both capitals. Austin's entertainment district is a magnet for locals and visitors alike (as Bricktown is here), but it's mostly dead during daylight hours and requires 32 full-time officers to police it.
Population estimates show that Austin has just over 836,000 residents. Oklahoma City has just over 601,000. What Austin doesn't have is a major league sports team, even though the Austin metropolitan area is larger. The rate of population growth in the two capital cities has been remarkably consistent over the past 10 years.
Austin does have a certain place of higher learning with a large football stadium. Attracting retail to downtown sites, though, has been a challenge in both places. Last year, CareerBuilder.com ranked Austin as No. 3 in “Top Job-Growth Cities” in the U.S. Oklahoma City was sixth. Yet Mike Rollins, president and CEO of the Austin Chamber, said the city still struggles to recruit experienced talent to its workplaces.
Oklahoma's capital has more in common with Austin than we thought, but here's a troubling statistic: Nearly 40 percent of Austin residents have a college degree. In Oklahoma City, the figure is just 23 percent.
Nothing limits a city's potential quite like educational attainment.