October 9, 2011

Quality Jobs Favors Manufacturing

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The first company to sign up for the Oklahoma Quality Jobs program 18years ago was an Oklahoma City car parts manufacturer.

The emphasis has been on manufacturing ever since.

Over the course of the program, manufacturing concerns have been boththe most numerous participants in Quality Jobs and have received the most incash benefits. A Tulsa World review of Oklahoma Tax Commission recordsfound $158.2 million in payments to manufacturers, about one-fourth of all rebates.

The biggest beneficiaries have included the Oklahoma City Air LogisticsCenter — a civilian manufacturing unit of Tinker Air Force Base — Boeingand Spirit Aerosystems.

The oil and gas industry has been more prominent inrecent years. Oil and gas firms received $17.8 million in Quality Jobsrebates in 2010. The total included payments to Chesapeake, Devon,ConocoPhillips and Samson Resources.

Besides employers in the energy sector itself, the recent oil and gasboom has boosted payments to related manufacturers, such as makers ofoilfield equipment.

Interestingly enough, only what might be considered office jobs in theenergy sector are eligible for Quality Jobs. Oilfield jobs themselvesare not.

One criticism of the program has been that it’s tended to recruitlower-paying call-center and food-processing jobs rather thanhigher-paying ones in sectors such as manufacturing and technology.

A review of recipient records indicates some justification. Callcenters have received more money than any sector except manufacturingsince Quality Jobs began in 1993, and remain an important component ofthe program.

Food processing, on the other hand, has declined to less than 2 percentof rebates.

This may be the result of a 2003 change to the program that requiresemployers to pay at least the average county wage, or a sliding minimumthat’s now at just under $30,000 per year.

A small business Quality Jobs program was initiated in 1998 and has had91 participants with total payrolls of $141.8 million.

Recent additions are 21st Century Quality Jobs and PrimeWin.

Twenty-first Century Quality Jobs requires at least 10 jobs paying morethan $90,000 each. Only five employers have signed up.

PrimeWin allows out-of-state federal contractors to apply for QualityJobs benefits for work performed by subcontractors in Oklahoma.