In Oklahoma, the wide-ranging industry sector of professional, scientific and technical services has become a top performer.
In fact, nationwide, the professional services category has experienced growth, seeing a 15-percent jump in employment since 2001, according to Forbes magazine.
According to the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, high-value IT (information technology) industries employ 23,015 people with average wages of $65,900 — 48 percent higher than the state’s average wage.
IT isn’t the only sector growing. Financial services in Oklahoma employ 84,480 people with an average wage of $61,900.
Business and finance occupations in high demand include accountants, cost estimators, management analysts, market research analysts and business operations specialists.
From call centers to architecture firms to IT and financial services, the professional services sector in Oklahoma provides 294,400 jobs in the state with average wages of $53,735, which is 20 percent higher than the state’s average wage.
“What makes Oklahoma stand out in this sector is that we offer the whole package,” says Brien Thorstenberg, senior vice president of the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce.
“We have the education, we have the talented workforce, and we have good office and industrial sites. Combine that with a low cost of doing business, a good quality of life and close proximity to markets, and Oklahoma I becomes very attractive to companies doing business.”
In March 2016, Paycom Software, Inc. which provides a comprehensive, cloud-based software for human capital management, announced plans to add an approximately $16-million, fully equipped building adjacent to its current headquarters in Oklahoma City.
The project means the addition of 423 new jobs over the next five years with average salaries of approximately $49,500. The Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust agreed to a $1.2-million incentive package to create hundreds of new jobs.
The expansion will help Paycom keep pace with expected future demands for its cloud-based, human capital management software solution as it continues to grow in the market.
“We are very much a tech company, and while we are proud of our payroll service, with our product offering, we have grown into the largest tech company headquartered in Oklahoma City,” says Paycom COO, Stacey Pezold. “I think we are proud of the diversity that technology can bring to Oklahoma City’s economic development. Oklahoma is a great place to do business cost-wise, but also from a talent perspective.”
Paycom uses the quality-of-life factor in Oklahoma to recruit new talent, Pezold says, but also recruits from local universities.
“Oklahoma does great in creating new talent. People want to live and stay here, but the universities here have put an emphasis on creating great tech talent,” Pezold says. “The Oklahoma City Economic Development did an impact study that says we will have a $91-million economic impact on the city over the next three years, and local universities are able to help us to recruit that talent that we need.”
Roy Williams, president of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, says the professional and financial services sector in Oklahoma City is thriving beyond Paycom as well.
“It’s a strong sector,” he says. “It’s also a very broad and encompassing sector that includes engineering services, architecture, legal, IT, marketing, etc. I think this is because of two things.”
The first driving force behind the growth of the sector is the continuation of robust development in the state, which requires the outsourcing of professional services like engineering, architecture and more.
“The second is that more and more companies are outsourcing,” says Williams. “Instead of having an in-house legal team, they are outsourcing to law firms. From collections to payroll services, many companies have shifted to outsourcing.”
That shift is paying off for not only the professional and financial services companies, but for the economy and Oklahoma’s employment as well. Numerous companies have announced expansions that will result in new jobs, like Southwest Airlines, located in Oklahoma City, adding 250 jobs. Dell USA recently announced it would add up to 321 jobs in the next 10 years in Oklahoma City.
Tulsa has its own share of announcements as well, including Consumers Unified adding 220 jobs, Verinovum adding 47 jobs and Gateway Mortgage Group adding 85,000 sq. ft. to its headquarters.
“We have a lot of companies in Oklahoma City and Tulsa that need financial services, managers, professional services, and I think the ability to serve the industries is in demand,” Thornstenburg says. “Oklahoma is strategically placed in the middle of the country, and it’s also very cost-effective to do business here. We have great transportation and logistics, which also attracts industry to our state.”
Incentively Quality Jobs
In addition to the demand for professional and financial services, companies in this sector have benefited from utilizing Oklahoma’s incentives. Under Oklahoma’s Quality Jobs Program, qualifying businesses that create new jobs receive quarterly cash payments of up to 5 percent of new taxable payroll directly to a qualifying company for up to 10 years.
Since the program was created in 1993, Oklahoma has issued more than 743 contracts to locating, expanding and startup businesses, and those contracts total more than $968 million in performance-based wage rebates.
Verinovum, LLC of Tulsa was one of those companies to benefit, receiving $2 million in state assistance and expanding its operations to create 47 new jobs. Verinovum monitors and acts on data coming from the “blueprint-less” medical superhighway.
Spacenet, Inc. of Tulsa, which designs, implements and manages communication networks, received $1.3 million in expansion help to create 50 new jobs.
But the largest creation of jobs will be from Progrexion ASG, Inc. The firm, which provides IP, technology, marketing and administrative services, will add 534 new jobs to the Oklahoma City area. The Progrexion announcement included plans to continue building their new operation in the state. The fast-growing credit repair company noted Oklahoma’s culture and environment as well as local incentives in its decision to invest.
“Having a building available for Progrexion was critical in attracting them,” says Williams. “Having access to a talented workforce also worked. They have seen the numbers when it comes to the workforce that we have, and that really helps our ability to attract new business.”