Innovation Thrives in Broken Arrow, OK
Tech companies find location advantageous
Thanks to its location, ease of doing business and access to talent, Broken Arrow is proving to be a great place for innovation-driven companies to set up shop and thrive.
Founded in 1999, Tactical Electronics is a defense contractor headquartered in Broken Arrow, with offices in Virginia, Tennessee and the United Kingdom. The company specializes in providing tactical and security cameras to law enforcement.
Access Optics, founded in 2000, specializes in precision optical devices for medical and analytical purposes. Thanks in part to a grant by Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST), the company also leverages nanotechnology to produce its custom optical instruments.
“It seems like Tulsa is taking a turn from an oil and gas community to more of a tech, innovation entrepreneurial spirit,” says Addie Ventris, marketing director at Tactical Electronics.”We’re definitely trying to be a part of that and continue to grow our business in that community.”
Bob Hogrefe, chief executive officer at Access Optics, says the regulatory environment in Broken Arrow and Oklahoma is particularly business-friendly for companies like his.
“Having run companies on both coasts, everybody works under pretty much the same regulatory requirements when it comes to the federal government," Hogrefe says. "But I can tell you the ease of doing business here as compared to doing business in California is significantly greater.”
Both Hogrefe and Ventris say their companies have access to a lot of good tech talent coming out of the nearby universities, and the local competition for that talent is much less than what businesses might find in tech hubs like Seattle or San Francisco.
Inspired Company Culture
“One of the more interesting parts of being near Tulsa is that there is a group of technical junior colleges, you would call them two-year colleges, where students come out technically trained, and they are really very adept coming right out of school: machinists, people with good technical understanding," Hogrefe says.
Ventris says that Tactical Electronics has taken a page out of the Silicon Valley playbook and created a very vibrant, inspiring and community-oriented company culture. In fact, Tactical Electronics was recently named the second-best Manufacturing & Production workplace by the Great Place to Work Institute and one of Fortune’s 50 Best Workplaces for Giving Back.
“Everyone that works here wants to work here, likes to work here and we have a really fun and exciting culture, so I think that helps a lot with recruitment,” Ventris says.
Both company representatives note that Broken Arrow and the Greater Tulsa Area are ideal locations for startups and aspiring entrepreneurs.
“The reasons why we choose to make Oklahoma, and Broken Arrow specifically, our home base for the manufacturing facility and headquarters are we have good people here, good resources and support of the community, like the local chambers (of commerce),” Ventris says.
She adds that Tactical Electronics is always looking to feed back into the local cycles of innovation and entrepreneurship.
“We stay true to a lot of the other companies in Oklahoma that are trying to innovate and advance science and technology through all different industries,” Ventris says.
Hogrefe notes the advantage of being close to Tulsa's amenities as a major draw for millennials, who tend to bring fresh ideas and fuel innovation.
“There’s a really vibrant restaurant scene, and (Tulsa) has been gifted a park that is second only to Central Park in size,” he says. “Work on the park will be finished in the early part of next year, and there’s also a huge urban trail system."