Recovery is well on its way for Oklahoma's manufacturing industry, evidenced in part by a manufacturing company snagging the top spot on our 2011 list of the state's best performing companies.
LSB Industries climbed an impressive 32 slots to No. 1. The Oklahoma City-based company makes commercial and residential heating and air conditioning systems — such as geothermal and water source heat pumps, as well as chemicals for mining and agriculture.
Another heating and air conditioning manufacturer, Tulsa's AAON Inc., jumped from 29th to 15th place.
And Orchids Paper Products in Pryor, which produces tissue products made from recycled paper, slipped just one spot to 28.
Tony Shelby, chief financial officer at LSB, said the climate control segment of its business took a hit during the recession but has been picking up. In 2009, business was down 15 percent and last year, it was down another 6 percent.
“Considering the severity of the recession, that was pretty respectable,” he said.
But by the first half of 2011, climate control sales were up 19 percent year over year.
LSB has 1,900 total employees; 1,500 of those work in Oklahoma, where the company has seven production plants, a financial center and their corporate office.
Oklahoma manufacturers added at least 10,000 jobs this year, said Chuck Prucha, president of the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance.
The state's strongest industries include oil and gas and aerospace, both of which support manufacturing.
Employment is one good measure of the industry, but another is productivity, which continues to improve, Prucha added.
“Oklahoma has not taken the same hit in manufacturing as everyone else,” he said.
But in some cases, businesses will continue to keep payrolls lean rather than add workers.
“When you enter an economic downturn, companies learn to do more with less,” said Mike Seney, senior vice president for The State Chamber of Oklahoma. Companies may have dropped a third shift or decreased overtime, and resist bringing it back until production merits it, he said.
Large part of state workforce
Oklahoma's close to 4,000 manufacturing companies employ 130,000 workers, said Mike Seney, senior vice president for The State Chamber of Oklahoma, making up 10 percent of the state's workforce.