By almost any measure, Oklahoma is a business-friendly state. Almost.
One measure that repels business growth is the state's workers' compensation system. This could be the year that the comp system finally gets “fixed.” If so, this should improve the state's business-friendly rankings.
California is the least business-friendly state, according to Chief Executive magazine. Texas is the friendliest. Oklahoma's rank is 17th. This could improve if the workers' comp system were better. A biennial study found that Oklahoma's workers'comp costs were the sixth-highest in the nation. So, 44 states have an advantage over Oklahoma.
To understand the effects of unfriendliness to business, look at California. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Golden State is a gold mine for business recruiters from other states because of rising taxes and stifling regulations. Decades of growth produced a massive business community that's now stagnating.
The California Manufacturers and Technology Association says the state accounted for 12.6 percent of the nation's gross domestic product in 2011 but only 2.2 percent of manufacturing expansions nationwide. Still, the shrinking of California's economy hasn't inordinately benefitted other states. The Public Policy Institute of California says that fewer than 9,000 jobs go out of state each year. Between 1992 and 2006, only 2 percent of jobs lost in California went to another state. The rest just disappeared.
Which brings us back to Oklahoma and workers' comp. Being business-friendly isn't solely about recruiting employers from other states. It's more about keeping Oklahoma employers in the black, helping them to thrive rather than go out of business — or move to Texas.
We can't say if a comp system fix will lead to an influx of new businesses. But we can say that employers with a long history here will finally get relief from an onerous system that not only costs too much but doesn't always serve the needs of injured workers.