Taxes Boost State Manufacturing Ranking / Oklahoma Ranked 24th; Cost of Workers' Compensation High, but Cost of Living Good

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With a rise in the tax environment to fourth best among the 48 contiquous states, Oklahoma's manufacturing climate moved up one notch to 24th in 1986, according to a Tuesday report by Grant Thorton Accountants and Management Consultants.

While the tax environment jumped 11 places from 15th in 1985, the cost of workers' compensation insurance in Oklahoma rose one step to eighth highest from ninth a year ago, said the eighth annual Study of General Manufacturing Climates.

Oklahoma also ranked ninth best in favorable cost of living comparisons, according to the report, though it ranked 24th in education and 42nd in health care. The education index included teachers' salaries, high school graduation rate, funding for public and higher education and illiteracy rates.

"Taxes, cost of living, stability of work force, energy and transportation costs were all positive factors for Oklahoma in the latest survey," said Ed de Cordova, managing partner of Grant Thornton's Oklahoma City office.

Oklahoma had one of the best records in the country in lack of work stoppages due to labor disputes, he pointed out, tying 11 other states for first in manhours lost. Oklahoma also tied for 25th in wages (up from 35th a year ago). It ranked 24th in unionization, unemployment compensation benefits and average workers' compensation payments.

The state also ranked ninth in the ratio of public debt to personal income growth as well as 14th in energy costs (compared to eighth last year), 17th in transportation costs and 28th in state business incentives.

"Overall, the latest report is highly encouraging," de Cordova said, "especially since it covers 1986 and does not yet reflect the results of the many economic development reforms presently being undertaken by Gov. Henry Bellmon, the Oklahoma Legislature and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.

"In particular, House Bill 1444 (the Economic Recovery Act of 1987), now being considered by the Legislature, could have a positive effect on our standing in the annual survey, since this bill affects Oklahoma's ability to encourage capital formation for new industry."

The report specifically mentions the reorganized Department of Commerce as an improvement factor for Oklahoma, he said.

De Cordova expressed surprise over the state's relatively low rating (33rd) in the available work force category.

"I do not believe this ranking adequately reflects the state's excellent vo-tech program, which consistently has been judged one of the best in the nation in its training programs for industry," he said.

In the five general areas of the survey, the ranking for Oklahoma was:

- 13th in state and local government fiscal policies.

- 33rd in state regulated employment costs, including workers' compensation insurance.

- 26th in labor costs.

- 25th in availability and productivity of resources.

- 23rd in selected quality of life.

Oklahoma ranked 26th in government controlled factors and 27th in non-government controlled factors. …