Back-to-back layoff announcements from Lucent Technologies and
Seagate Technology have created the impression of an imploding high-
tech market in the Oklahoma City area, but local analysts say that's
not the case.
"That's unfortunately a part of a trend in Oklahoma over the last
several months. There have been several large-scale layoffs in both
Oklahoma City and Tulsa," said Bart Ward, dean of the Oklahoma City
University Meinders School of Business. "The good news is it appears
to me that those layoffs in Oklahoma City are usually in the three-
digit range and nationally you can see a lot of layoffs in the five-
digit range now."
"Oklahoma City is kind of on the backside of any kind of a
slowdown in the economy -- and let's face it, the economy has slowed
down -- so that's why these people are downsizing a little bit,"
said Richard Burpee, interim president and director of economic
development at the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. "It's
really had very little impact on us."
Lucent, Oklahoma City's largest private employer, announced the
elimination of 400 out of 4,000 positions at the company plant,
which builds digital telephone switching offices and access
transmission equipment for telephone companies. The company has an
Oklahoma City payroll of $200 million.
Seagate has announced that more than 500 employees will lose
their jobs or be transferred. The company employed 1,300 here before
the announcement. Seagate's Oklahoma City division makes disk drives
for everything from video games to servers.
Economic development officials have been waging a public
relations war to attract high-paying, high-tech jobs to the area,
with some success. In March, electronic equipment production
accounted for 7,900 of 37,000 durable goods jobs in the six-county
metro area, according to the Oklahoma Employment Securities
Commission. Communications and utilities employed 13,700 during the
same period. There were 545,800 total people employed in area non-
farm positions in March.
Across the state, 13,400 were employed in the electronic
equipment field, while 24,200 were employed in communications. There
were 1,492,900 total non-farm jobs in Oklahoma in March.
Analysts said local layoffs are just a ripple effect of industry-
wide changes that could be offset by other trends.
"I still think Oklahoma City is holding its own, relatively
speaking, but those things are inevitable when the economy levels
out," Ward said.
Dr. Robert Dauffenbach, director of the Center for Economic and
Management Research at the University of Oklahoma, said the layoffs
were "troubling events, certainly," but noted that the
telecommunications industry is experiencing a global slump. However,
he predicted a quick recovery for the industry.
Dauffenbach also said Lucent's decision to sell its plant to an
electronic contract manufacturer is another national trend, and does
not reflect on the state of Oklahoma's economy.
"I'm not too concerned," he said.
Lucent officials announced that the company has received several
bids on its Oklahoma City plant. Officials hope to sell the plant by
July 1, maintaining as many of its current positions as possible.
Ward said that bodes well for the future.
"Apparently, they have shined themselves up to the point where
they feel they are finally marketable, which suggests that there's
some long-term vitality in Oklahoma City for that plant," he said. …