Oklahomans exhibit natural fortitude. We understand that it takes grit, determination, resources and time to accomplish important things. When we care about something, we prioritize what it takes to get it done.
One of the things more and more Oklahomans are caring about is promoting entrepreneurship and the startup and growth of more small companies. The more successful Oklahoma-based companies we have, the more we can expand individual and state wealth by producing products and services that people in other states and countries buy.
The holy grail of all economic development activity is the home office. Company headquarters have the decision-makers who control budgets and make the bigger salaries. These locations tend to have the higher paying managerial and functional jobs in engineering, product design and business development.
Think about where home offices are. They usually end up where the company was started — Microsoft in Washington; Walmart in Arkansas, and Pixar Animation in California. It's difficult, costly and seldom successful to convince a company to move its headquarters to another state; that's why where a company first puts down roots is so important.
Look up at Devon Energy's 50-story, 1.8 million-square-foot tower, or think about how Chesapeake Energy began in 1989 with 10 employees and $50,000 in capital and grew into the country's second-largest producer of natural gas, and you will get a sense of the impact that headquarters locations can have.
Our state's natural resources of oil and gas have a lot to do with companies like Devon, Chesapeake and Continental Resources being located here. But energy isn't Oklahoma's only natural resource. We have perseverance and we have creative minds — two of the main ingredients for a diversified, innovation economy.
Growing the home offices of new industries in Oklahoma takes time. The urges of immediate gratification interfere. Young businesses take years to work out, but new company starts are the proven way to build a robust economy for the future.
Just as businesses have to plan for the long run, so do the economic engines of the state. We need to focus a little more on planning and investing in companies that will fuel our economy long term.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state's technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.
DID YOU KNOW?
In a recent survey of 1,431 businesses, 60 percent of entrepreneurs queried spent more than six months working their business idea before forming their entity and 44 percent of the sample had started multiple companies.