Nestled in the center of the nation, Tulsa is far from the volatile stock markets in New York City, though that doesn't mean we are protected from its eventual dramatic financial reverberations.
Last week, the stock market wobbled violently, with the largest drops since the beginning of the downturn in 2008. International markets are shifting like tectonic plates before a massive earthquake.
Internationally, things are uncertain.
"The European Central Bank cannot bail out everyone, and it's become increasingly obvious that the measures they have taken aren't working anyway," said Gary Casey, General Interstate Insurance Agency vice president.
"Italy, Spain and Portugal are also on the ropes," he said. "Like many European nations, we cannot sustain our debt."
Back home, the United States is struggling with a reduced credit rating and a ballooning debt ceiling while its citizens are already careworn by a deep, years-long recession.
So what does this mean for Tulsa's financial destiny?
Scott Meacham, former Oklahoma Treasurer from June 2005 to Jan. 2011 and current director of Crowe & Dunlevy Law Firm, explained Oklahoma's financial outlook to UTW recently.
"The story in Oklahoma and Tulsa is better than the national landscape," Meacham said.
Citing good sales tax numbers, he said, "People are still buying things and feeling good.
"Our unemployment numbers look better in Tulsa and in Oklahoma than they look from a national perspective," he said.
Meacham said he thinks Tulsa's large oil and gas industry has helped keep our economy afloat. Add to that the city's focus on the aerospace industry and we've got an effective insulator from a sour national economy. At least for now.
"Tulsa's aerospace focus and especially the maintenance side of that works as a kind of counter-cyclical balance for the Tulsa economy," Meacham said.
"When the economy isn't as good, the big airlines put off buying new airliners. So they spend more on maintenance," he said.
Tulsa's focus on the maintenance side of the airline business helps counteract negative factors in the economy.
Plus, we've got a large stable of small, local businesses that aren't directly affected by the stock market rollercoaster.
Make Ends Meet.
Financial drama will slowly seep into our borders through increased food and gas prices though Tulsa's large number of small businesses and relatively small number of publicly-traded companies protects us from large drops on Wall Street.
The Tulsa Business Journal's "2010 Book of Lists" showed there are only 17 large publicly-traded companies in town. The Williams Cos. leads the pack of mostly oil and gas heavy hitters, like Oneok and Arena Resources.
On the other hand, the Tulsa Metro Chamber of Commerce lists 25 large private companies doing business here. St. John Health System comes in number one, employing 3,675 people.
"If you're in a good business, I think that also helps insulate you from the national economy," Meacham said.
"The reason big companies got themselves in trouble was by making big bets on things they don't understand," Meacham said. "Small businesses don't do that."
Clay Clark, who owns several small businesses in Tulsa, echoed Meacham's statements. "Our businesses have not been greatly affected by the morons in Washington," Clark said.
DJ Connection, Clark's first runaway success and popular wedding service that now employs 35 part-time local DJs, saw a 10 percent increase in sales over the last year.
Clark said Tulsa Bridal Association is back up to 2007 numbers, while his business consulting company Make Your Life Epic has seen a 15 percent increase in clients from last year.
On the other hand, the father of five said that the cost of feeding his large family has increased by 37 percent.
"Thankfully, our businesses are primarily located in Oklahoma and Texas, which have conservative financial values and many elected officials that reflect that world view."
Though some small businesses are thriving, it's undeniable that others are feeling the effects of a stressed economy.
Each year, Oklahoma State University economists for the college's Center for Applied Economic Research calculate a financial forecast for the state.
The 2011 outlook, compiled by director of the center and research economist Russell Evans, was cautiously optimistic though numbers across the board aren't back to pre-2008 levels.
Oklahoma's employment rate hasn't fully recovered yet. Neither have wages for the state. "Unemployment rates remain elevated by Oklahoma standards but well below national rates," Evans wrote.
He predicted that oil and gas activity would pick up "modestly" in 2011 and 2012. Evans wrote, "2011 will feel like recovery."
But he may not have been able to predict the wild ride on Wall Street and abroad. Evans also indicated that Oklahoma's mining, construction and manufacturing industries are the hardest hit.
With more people out of work and an economy struggling to regain its footing, First Baptist Church of Tulsa's lead pastor Deron Spoo said more stressed-out couples are coming in for counseling.
"Financial reasons are the number one reason for divorces, far and away," Spoo said. "And when we see a hiccup in the economy like in 2008 and this past week, stress in marriage is going to instantly go up."
In addition to marital problems, financial strain can also cause people to re-think their lives and their place in the world. "When there's a downturn in the economy and people lose their jobs, they have an identity crisis. People start asking, 'What does God have for me next?'"
Spoo gave two pieces of advice for Tulsans struggling in this economy. The first piece, he said, "needs to be heeded a couple of years before the problem. Get out of debt and stay out of debt."
On average, Americans spend $1.26 for every dollar they earn, Spoo said. First Baptist is offering a new Momentum program this fall, which will help its congregants gain a better understanding of debt and how to get out of it.
Spoo also advised that couples have "absolute transparency with each other" about their finances. Discovering hidden debt is a rude awakening after the honeymoon or even years down the road. No matter what, Spoo said, "Remember to face the issue together, and don't face off against each other."
For advice on how to handle creditors and how to find a happier future after financial ruin, read UTW's News Updates interview with Bill Bartmann, Tulsa's Horatio Alger story come to life and owner of debt collection agency CFS II.
Here and across the globe, people are wading through uncertain financial waters. Politicians duke it out in Washington over the value of the dollar while Tulsans anxiously count theirs. But our solid industries and profusion of small businesses will keep Tulsa afloat as the nation paddles toward recovery.
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