New quality jobs through small business, without higher taxes

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They keep trying to tell us that there's no hope for new jobs unless we pass this billion-dollar tax increase. But the Whirled business section yesterday had a story (starts here, continued here) that illustrates some key principles of economic growth, and shows us that Tulsa can grow quality jobs. Let's read through the story together:

Two Tulsa companies are expected to hire more than 400 people in the next few years as they expand operations as part of the Oklahoma Quality Jobs Program, state and company officials said Thursday.

That's about half the number of jobs Boeing would bring (800 to 1200) for our $350,000,000 investment, had they selected us. (As previously reported, Tulsa did not make the short list -- only cities with deep water ports are still in the running.)

Aircraft Fueling Systems, a 9-year old Tulsa company that employs 100 people, will triple employment during the next 10 years under the program, said Parker Strickland, chief financial officer.

"We’ll add 25 to 50 jobs over the next 12 months," Strickland said. "We’re among three companies that have received a $47 million one-year contract with the U.S. Navy to update and maintain fuel control systems for automated fuel handling equipment around the world.

"We have additional bids in place for military contracts, and we also are expanding the commercial side of the business."

The keys to Aircraft Fueling Systems’ growth from fewer than 30 employees three years ago to its current count of 100 is the versatility, efficiency and speed the company brings to a project, company executives said. ...

Among the company’s recently completed projects are the engineering and construction of a $20 million, 24-gate fuel line at Baltimore-Washington International Airport and the engineering, design and operator training for a $35 million fuel facility for Southwest Airlines at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.

Note several things. Aircraft Fueling Systems didn't exist 10 years ago. Few of us have heard of it. Someone had an idea and started a small business. Three years ago, they had fewer than 30 employees. But this small business wasn't dependent on local customers, or on a local big business to be their main customer. They have customers all over the country: both commercial airports and the Defense Department. They are bringing new money directly into our economy. We didn't have to raise our taxes to make this possible.

Ameristar Fence Products, a 20-year-old Tulsa company started by one man with a little fence-building background and a lot of vision, is steadily adding jobs to keep up with high production demands.

Ameristar employs more than 450 people and sells $100 million in products every year, company officials said. By the end of the year, the company will have already reached the employment level it projected when it entered the Oklahoma Quality Jobs Program. The 10-year contract with the program says that by the end of the contract Ameristar should have created 475 jobs, a number the company has nearly realized, said Ameristar spokesman Bruce Scott. The bulk of the jobs are manufacturing and sales positions, he said.

In the next three years, Ameristar expects to expand its facilities in northeast Tulsa and steadily add workers for an estimated total employment of about 700 people. Company officials also predict Ameristar sales will double to $200 million in five years.

Ameristar specializes in steel and aluminum ornamental fences that are used around golf courses, schools, parks, housing developments, stores and other facilities. The fences are installed around new projects but are just as often used to replace old fences, company officials said. The company’s newest and fastest-selling product is a fence so strong that it can stop a 15,000-pound vehicle traveling 40 mph, which is the federal requirement outlined in an antiram certification drawn up by the State Department.

Heightened security since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has increased the need for such fences around government and military operations where a vehicular bomb could be used, company officials said.

Ameristar has already sold the fence for use around two Air Force bases in California, one in Missouri and another near Washington, D.C., he said. The Pentagon also is considering one, the company said.

This latest security fence adds to a long line of ornamental fences, fence hardware and fence coatings that Ameristar has been designing and building since Oklahoma native Eddy Gibbs founded the company.

In the early days, Gibbs was known to load up a truck with fence products and start driving. He wouldn’t come back until he had sold everything and the truck was empty. After the company’s fence hardware went over well, Gibbs started cultivating the niche of ornamental fencing, said Mark Meek, national marketing and sales manager.

Here's another company that started as a one-man operation -- can't be any smaller than that -- and has grown to be the largest manufacturer of ornamental fencing in the world, according to its website. Mr. Gibbs found a niche and exploited it, selling his product all over the country. This company brings in new dollars to our economy.

The yea-sayers say that paying hundreds of millions to bring one big businesses into town is the only way to grow our economy, and to help small businesses grow. That just shows how they misunderstand what small business is all about.

All over Tulsa are small and medium-sized businesses with a great idea and a vision for being the best in the country or the best in the world at what they do. They aren't waiting for work from local customers, but they're searching out and getting clients and income from all over the world. Oklahoma has the Quality Jobs program to help these businesses get off the ground and add new jobs to the economy. Any company that brings jobs benefits from it. If we vote no next Tuesday, Boeing and American would still qualify for the Quality Jobs program, just like any other company. That's the fair and sensible way to provide incentives to companies, not raising regressive sales taxes and directing the money to just a couple of favored companies.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 6, 2003 5:00 PM.

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