State’s Economy Survives Downturn

Oklahoma’s economy is strong enough to weather the current downturn, but several factors could make 2010 a risky year, said Mark Snead, an economist with the William Spears School of Business at Oklahoma State University.
“Obviously we will not have the economy we had in 2005, ‘06, ‘07 and ‘08,” Snead said. “It will be volatile over the next nine months.”
Snead addressed about 800 people at the DoubleTree Hotel at Warren Place, 61st Street and Yale Avenue last Wednesday, Dec. 3.
Starting with Tulsa, Snead and other economists assessed market conditions and made forecasts for the next two years.
Forecasts indicate a severe recession across the U.S., but Oklahoma’s strength remains its robust energy sector.
“How energy does is the question,” Snead said. “The state’s outlook for next year depends on two factors — current momentum and the energy market.”
The state currently has a 1 percent job growth — ninth best in the nation. Real estate is still expanding at a 5 percent rate. The energy field remains a question because crude oil prices continue to tumble.
“The question is how low will it go,” Snead said.
Oil prices are between $45 and $50 a barrel and natural gas is hovering between $5 and $6 per 1,000 cubic feet. Just 4-and-a-half months ago, oil was $147 a barrel.
One good sign is energy states Wyoming and Texas remain unfazed by the economic turmoil roiling the financial markets. Those states rank 1-2 in terms of job growth.
Tulsa’s job market is still expected to grow, but at a slower rate. Snead projected job growth to be at 0.4 percent. Next year, he projects it would dip 0.2 percent but bounce back in 2010, growing 0.7 percent.
Oklahoma City’s job market is expected to grow 1.3 percent this year, and remain positive in 2009 at 0.2 percent and even grow at an even stronger state in 2010, at 1.2 percent.
Overall, the state’s job growth is expected to hover at 1.1 percent this year, dip just 0.1 percent in ‘09 and return to a 1.1 percent growth rate in 2010.
Across the globe, economies are slowing “across the board,” said Anthony Chan, managing director and chief economist of Private Wealth Management at JPMorgan.
“Globalization means that America’s problems are the world’s problems,” Chan said. “Financial sector de-leveraging os still playing out, producing a contraction at credit availability.”
There remains plenty of risk in the markets. Investors need patience, he said.
“Equity returns tend to bottom out well before the end of the recession, once the bad news is evident and accepted by the investors,” he said.
No one knows if the crisis is over, Chan said.
“On May 26, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson said the worst of the credit crisis ‘is behind us,’” Chan said.
In the near future, consumer spending is likely to remain in negative territory through the end of the year, Chan said.
“The U.S. housing market trends expected ro remain soft will into 2009,” he said.
Tulsa-based Rib Crib BBQ & Grill opens its newest restaurant Monday, Dec. 8, in Edmond.
“We are excited to announce the return of Rib Crib to Edmond, and we are confident that the area will support our family-friendly and casual dining atmosphere,” said Bret Chandler, Rib Crib founder and president.
Rib Crib closed its 10-year-old, 1,800-SF Edmond location almost two years ago with plans to return. The store that will open Monday more than triples the size of the previous store.
Previously the site of El Chico Caf√?, the property underwent a 90-day remodel to become Rib Crib’s 43rd restaurant. The new store’s kitchen is one of only three in the Rib Crib system to feature a new, compact design that increases efficiency and speeds service times.
With seating for about 170, the dining room has semi-private seating areas for small- to medium-sized groups. The restaurant also features a full-sized bar. The new location has 80 employees.
Management at Tulsa’s Trinity Structural Towers Inc., 160 N. Rockford Ave., is moving to assist the 130 workers facing layoffs.
An undated memo, handed to workers recently, stated the announced layoffs took “everyone by surprise.”
“As of today we have visited and/or toured the facilities of several potential employers in an effort to secure employment for our employees upon closure of our facility,” the memo said.
Dallas-based Trinity Industries owns five business groups which either create products or offer services to the industrial, energy, transportation and construction sectors. Randy Myers, plant manager, did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission made a visit to the facility in early December.
“We ar working with a staffing agency that will be here Dec. 18th for a job fair,” the memo said.
Trinity management also promised other resources to assist in the transition.
Trinity Structural Towers will close on Jan. 17.
Trinity has made $500 offers to workers who would remain through the closing, sources said.
Trinity manufactures the middle and top sections of the 350-foot, 150-ton wind towers. Those sections are hauled to a Texas facility for assembly. The plant produces sections for about 25 towers a week, or 1,250 a year. Most towers are installed on wind farms.
The collapse of financial institutions, the current global credit crisis and plunging crude oil prices has crippled the alternative energy market.
Local manufacturer DMI, in Catoosa, produces 262-foot wind towers at its facility. DMI employs 200. Earlier this year DMI announced a $30 million expansion that would add 350 jobs. That work is ongoing, said Belinda Fortnell, spokeswoman.
XETA Technologies reported fourth quarter earnings of $705,000, or $0.07 per diluted share, on revenue of $22.3 million for the fourth fiscal quarter ended Oct. 31. This compares to earnings of $677,000, or 7 cents per share, on revenue of $19.1 million for the fourth fiscal quarter ended Oct. 31, 2007.
For the fiscal year ended Oct. 31, the company reported earnings of $2 million, or 20 cents per share, on revenue of $84 million compared to net income of $1.4 million, or 14 cents per share, on revenue of $70 million for the same period last year.
During the fourth quarter of fiscal 2008, equipment revenue increased by 22 percent to $10.2 million versus $8.39 million recorded in the fourth quarter of 2007. The increase in systems sales was primarily due to a combination of the previously announced large project with Miami-Dade County Public Schools and growth in lodging systems sales.
Greg Forrest, CEO said, “We continue to gain traction with the Mitel product line, which was evident in the 74 percent growth in lodging equipment sales during the fourth quarter.”
Tickets for the 2009 U.S. Amateur Championship at Southern Hills Country Club, Aug. 24-30, are on sale in time for the holiday.
There are several ticket packages available through the Web site, The highlight of the options is a $120 week-long Clubhouse Pass, which allows fans access to the Southern Hills clubhouse. It marks the first time in Southern Hills’ history that this type of ticket has been made available to the public.
The Clubhouse Pass is valid through the Championship. In addition, daily tickets at $15 per day and a week-long pass at $50 are also available. The U.S. Amateur Championship is the oldest golf championship in the country. Previous champions include Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jack Nicklaus and Scott Verplank.
This is the first U.S. Amateur in Tulsa since Bob Murphy’s victory in 1965, said Nick Sidorakis, Southern Hills general manager.
“We expect that fans will be excited about the U.S. Amateur’s return to Tulsa,” he said.

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