In a recent interview with Business Facilities, Oklahoma Commerce Secretary Larry Parman identified five sectors for targeted growth in the Sooner State: energy, aerospace, ag/biotech, transportation/distribution and financial services/IT.
Oklahoma is making great progress in all five target areas. The state is becoming known for as a leading U.S. data center hub, with more than 70 global companies—including AT&T, Google, Hertz, Hyatt Hotels and Avis Budget Group—building data centers in OK. Parman hinted that the state is on the verge of announcing a major new commercial aviation project, which will solidify Oklahoma’s position in the top tier of state aerospace manufacturing hubs.
MidAmerica Industrial Park is opening a new $10-million Career Center which will integrate and align educational and training resources, helping students attain 21st century job skills.
Parman points to the state’s business-friendly policies and the availability of low-cost energy, ample land, high-tech workers and water resources as primary magnets for attracting new data centers to OK. He credits Oklahoma’s fiscal discipline and reforms including a right-to-work law, tort reform and recently enacted workers’ compensation reforms as spurring an influx of new business into the state.
Oklahoma, known for graduating petroleum engineers, also has increased its support for education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
One of the crown jewels in of Oklahoma’s expanding high-tech base is the huge Google complex in MidAmerica Industrial Park, which boasts on-site water resources that can provide millions of gallons to the businesses based at the park.
MIDAMERICA: A PARK THAT DELIVERS, AHEAD OF THE CURVE
At one of the nation’s largest industrial parks, a wealth of on-site advantages includes a revolutionary new skills delivery program that is reshaping the future for both industry and MidAmerica’s Oklahoma community.
A flyover of the MidAmerica Industrial Park in Pryor, OK tells the story: Big things are happening here in a flourishing industrial development that sprawls over 9,000 acres, just 40 minutes from downtown Tulsa. From the air, you can see clearly the massive size of Google’s ever-expanding MidAmerica operation. And Google is only one of the many global players that have chosen MidAmerica as home. Others include Siemens, DuPont, ConocoPhillips, Sysco and Chevron.
Room to grow, as Google and other companies are doing, is one advantage drawing these leaders to a park with 4,500 acres still available. However, as your aerial tour draws you closer, other assets become obvious. Fast-moving trucks and rail cars, and an on-site airport with a 5,000-foot runway, reveal a Park offering tenants rapid global reach through multi-modal logistics, including an on-site Union Pacific rail line.
Moving ahead: And if on-site logistical resources keep the Park moving, on-site utilities keep tenant operations running 24/7 without downtime, thanks to the abundant, reliable power provided by Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA). The nation’s 16th largest public power utility, GRDA is a cost-of-service electricity provider offering rates 20 percent below the national average. Onsite water offers a peaking capacity of 62 million gallons. In fact, the Park operates with all the convenience and service of a self-sufficient community, with an on-site team of 25 dedicated professionals tending to tenant needs; on-site health services offered seven days a week for minor emergencies and basic care; an Expo center providing basic to turnkey services for large or small groups; and excellent dining and hotel facilities.
Facing the future: It’s a lot to take in from up in the air. What’s more, to discover one of MidAmerica’s most important on-site assets, it’s necessary to come down to earth and meet the people who make this Park work—a labor force of the size and skill to keep the world’s top companies ahead of the game. These faces are the key to MidAmerica’s success, and as the Park faces the future, these faces are changing, too, with a revolutionary new skills delivery program that is creating tomorrow’s workforce from the ground up.
AN INNOVATIVE NEW SKILLS DELIVERY PROGRAM IS READY FOR TAKEOFF
MidAmerica is already home to one of Oklahoma’s top workforce development programs, with three technical and higher educational centers located on-site, including Rogers State University, Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology (OSUIT) and Northeast Technology Center, which administers the state’s respected Training for Industry Program (TIP). However, now MidAmerica is opening a $10 million Career Center, in a groundbreaking collaboration with Northeast Technology Center, OSUIT, and key stakeholders drawn from a community-wide spectrum including local schools, businesses and civic organizations.
The Career Center will integrate and align educational and training resources; it will refine and intensify student and worker recruitment, and, perhaps most revolutionary, it aims to almost totally reorient the outlook on 21st century skills and skills attainment.
Rogers State University is a regional four-year university serving northeastern Oklahoma and the Tulsa metropolitan area. (Photo: MidAmerica.)
Putting skills development on the map, literally, in a way never possible before: “Skills acquisition has never been more vital,” explains Tonya Backward, MidAmerica’s Workforce Development Coordinator. “And we wanted to create more expansive and effective pathways and connections putting people together with the skills, the jobs, and, ultimately, the lives they envision. Traditional college and tech pathways haven’t always served either industry or students efficiently.”
Already staffed and tentatively scheduled to begin classes in January 2016, the Career Center will offer dual enrollment for high school students, and for students of all ages it will offer a variety of pathways ranging from certification through Associate Degrees transferrable for four-year degrees. The collaboration with existing on-site training institutions (which will also keep their current facilities operational) assures an impressive depth of resources. Also, Backward notes, “Our on-site coordination allows us to provide training that suits all needs, with strategic curriculum alignment.”
Other connections will be equally important. Business participation will provide real-world exposure for students, including internships, mentoring programs, plant tours and in-class discussion sessions about career opportunities and required skill-sets.
Communication will be key. “When millennials see the professional and personal rewards possible for skilled jobs, they’re onboard and totally committed.”
“MidAmerica Delivers.” In taking such a crucial leadership role, MidAmerica is going far beyond Park confines, reaching all the way down to middle school and elementary schools in helping to establish innovative programs such as “The Leader in Me” and Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits” to instill the higher level of critical thinking needed for tomorrow’s skills.
It’s all a big undertaking, but then as you’ve seen, MidAmerica thinks big. And as David Stewart, Chief Administrative Officer, notes, “We want people to understand we don’t just talk about prosperity. MidAmerica actually delivers.”
While the Park’s location near the “Crossroads of America” provides strategic shipping and logistical advantages, as an industrial entity operating in the heart of Cherokee Nation tribal boundaries. The Cherokee Nation is able to offer additional incentives and resources in business operations, healthcare, tuition reimbursement, on-the-job training programs, transportation, and scholarships for higher education to its tribal members. The Nation has also become a critical collaborative partner in the Career Center.