In 1985, when we were struggling to acquire the Hitachi Computer
Products (America) Inc. plant in Norman, it was easy to get the idea
that central Oklahoma virtually was void of high technology.
There was little in the Centralplex outside of the AT&T
Technologies Inc. Oklahoma City Works, Magnetic Peripherals (now
Control Data), the Oklahoma Health Center and a bunch of ideas that
hopefully could be turned into small companies. We needed
everything, but mostly we needed sources of capital and a commitment
to research and development.
To get that commitment, we needed a partnership among business,
education and government - the triumvirate that has worked so well
in places like Boston, North Carolina, Texas and the Silicon Valley
Well, maybe it's time to point out that we are making progress,
though it has come in bits and pieces, most of themso small that it
has been difficult to give us an overall picture. It still is
difficult to get a handle on how many companies, operations and
employees we have in high technology, because the local industry is
splintered and going a variety of directions.
I have been able to find about 30 companies, operations and
government agencies that have been either started, expanded or
improved in various aspects of high tech during the last three years
in the centralplex, and I am certain others have gone unnoticed.
This has been achieved despite the capital shortage that remains our
biggest problem with struggling financial institutions.
The most obvious, of course, were the recent $929 million
defense contract acquired by the AT&T plant, the potential $100
million AT&T contract acquired by Control Data and its subsidiary,
Imprimis Technology, and the recently-announced expansion of the
However, there have been far more developments, most of them
small with great potential.
They include companies such as Master Systems Computer Corp.,
Corozonix Corp., Intechnica Learning Systems, Control Technology
Inc., Ellis Enterprises, Indepth Data Inc., Midwest Fabrication
Inc., Gulfstream Corp., Oklahoma Digital Technologies Inc., Premier
Computer, BTI Systems Inc., Ted Davis Manufacturing Inc., Innovative
Computing Corp., TDK Corp. of Shawnee and Time Management Software
Inc. of Stillwater, among others.
We also could include the health center itself and several
medical firms such as Oklahoma Healthcare Corp., St. Anthony
Hospital and South Community Hospital. There have been major
developments by the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker Air
Force Base, the Federal Aviation Administration's Mike Monroney
Center, the National Weather Storm Laboratory, University of
Oklahoma Weather Center and other government agencies.
Defining high technology is part of the problem, says William J.
Nelson, director of business and industrial relations for Oklahoma
State University Technical Branch. Small companies are finding
niches in various areas ranging from manufacturing to supply, repair
Beyond that, Nelson points out we need a commitment to research
and development, which so far is far below that of some other
states, as well as an increased commitment to new training programs
for business and industry.
Still, it's remarkable just how much of a commitment has been
made by entrepreneurs, who must search relentlessly amid constant
rejection for risk capital to get their ideas and developments
translated into companies and operations. Oklahoma banks, with
regulators looking over their shoulders, have been reluctant to take
risks, and out-of-state investors remain reluctant to put money into
You only have to talk to leaders of these firms to find that
It also is important to notice that the
business-government-education partnership is developing, though