Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Peril and Opportunity: Economists See Bright Spots, but Warn of More Hard Times Ahead

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Peril and Opportunity: Economists See Bright Spots, but Warn of More Hard Times Ahead

Article excerpt

OKLAHOMA CITY - Low commodity prices have been a drag on Oklahoma's economy, and the effect will likely get worse in the short term, according to three local economists. Yet Oklahoma City's geography will aid growth in the medium term, said University of Central Oklahoma Business College Dean Mickey Hepner.

Oklahoma City could make a national mark in the next decade by embracing robotic technology and solar power, said Vivek Wadhwa, Duke University research director for the Pratt School of Engineering's Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization. Wadhwa addressed more than 800 people Thursday at the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber's annual State of the Economy event at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.

Oklahoma City University economics professor Russell Evans said the next six to nine months don't bode well for the Sooner State, because the economy is tied to oil and commodity prices that are expected to remain low for the foreseeable future. However, the capital city's growth in general behaves more like a north Texas city, with companies attracted to the interstate transportation corridor, he said.

Hepner said the chamber facilitates new job creation unlike any other in the region. That will benefit the city's medium-term growth, he said.

But Oklahoma's tax policies have a negative effect on long-term growth, Hepner said. The Legislature lowered personal income taxes three times in the last seven years, effectively removing $1 billion from the state's coffers. Oklahoma government is facing an anticipated $1 billion shortfall for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, he said.

University of Oklahoma Economics Associate Dean Robert Dauffenbach said the state must invest in education to increase the number of workers with bachelor's degrees or higher. The state's educated workforce is growing at about 2 percent, slower than the national average of about 3. …

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