Most Oklahoma business executives are confident their businesses will grow and about a third plan to hire workers this year, according to the findings of an online survey of company owners and officials released on April 4.
But more than half are less than positive about government services and do not believe future state legislation will have a positive impact on their businesses, according to the survey.
The survey was launched in December by Gov. Mary Fallin and Department of Commerce officials to determine what business leaders want to help their businesses grow. Fallin has made economic development and job creation her administration’s top priority.
“It will help us,” Fallin said as she and state Commerce Secretary Dave Lopez released the survey’s findings.
The survey will help state officials determine “what we need to do differently, what we need to do more of,” Lopez said.
Almost 5,400 business leaders from all 77 counties that employ more than 250,000 people completed the survey, according to Commerce Department officials. Lopez said the survey focused on businesses already located in the state rather than the agency’s attempts to recruit out-of-state employers.
“We’re playing to our strengths by attending to existing businesses,” he said.
Among other things, the survey found that most business leaders believe Oklahoma provides a good climate for entrepreneurs and about one-third of Oklahoma business executives reported plans to hire workers this year. With an unemployment rate of 6 percent in February, Oklahoma already has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation.
About half of the executives who took the survey reported plans to expand or upgrade their existing locations in the next three years. More than half said they plan to add new products and services, the survey found.
But only half of the business leaders believe the state’s regulatory environment is business friendly. More than half do not believe state workers treat businesses as valued customers.
Among the lowest rated business climate factors cited by business executives are the state’s workers’ compensation costs, access to sufficient public funding sources and business incentives, assistance programs and tax structure, according to the survey.
Fallin said the survey was taken before changes to Oklahoma’s worker’s compensation system approved by the Legislature last year had fully taken effect.
Among other changes, the bill directed the Workers’ Compensation Court to reduce the fee schedule for medical reimbursement rates by 5 percent and required physicians to follow nationally recognized treatment guidelines that were expected to dramatically reduce medical costs.
“We’ve already seen a reduction in our workers’ compensation costs,” Fallin said.