40 Oklahoma City

PopulationMetro: 1,383,737
Oklahoma City is building on a good thing and shoring up its future.

OKC citizens, long a prosperous group living in a state capital that is #34 in our deep Place category is amidst a torrent of doubling down on their great weather, low commute time and safety.

Fueled by their #28 ranking for Prosperity, including #35 for Fortune 500 companies and the 24th-highest Household Income, the city is now in torrid build out mode, largely funded by a unique city-building program called MAPS 3. The city’s capital improvements program “uses a one-cent, limited-term sales tax to pay for debt-free projects that improve our quality of life.” It’s also managed by the City Council with the help of a citizens advisory board.

As a longtime business center for the energy, biosciences and aerospace sectors, this is a city where linear thinking just doesn’t cut it.

Place 40
Product 10
Programming 6
People 46
Prosperity 35
Promotion 7

Yes, there is a new $287-million convention center opening downtown in in 2020, boasting 200,000 square feet of exhibit space, a 35,000-square-foot ballroom and 50,000 square feet of additional space paired with a prime location near the Myriad Botanical Gardens.

But there is also the opening of the only urban whitewater rafting facility in the world. Already designated as an official Olympic and Paralympic training site, Oklahoma City is creating the finest rowing racecourse in the world while investing $25 million in a public whitewater kayaking facility for all skill levels. This builds on the 2016 opening of the city’s whitewater rafting facility, RIVERSPORT Rapids, one of only six man-made white water courses in the country. And yes, both project were funded by MAPS 3.

Most recently, the city was chosen as one of four communities to receive a multi-year grant from the Outdoor Foundation, which aims to make getting outside part of the fabric of peoples’ lives by providing repeat experiences of fun, joy and learning in the outdoors for kids and families of all backgrounds. The city ranks #50 in Parks & Outdoors and #11 in Weather.

This may be oil country, but six miles of downtown streetcar will link major attractions in the downtown area—the most extensive transit initiative of its type in the United States.

“This is a historic day decades in the making,” said Mayor David Holt at the December 2018 ribbon cutting. “Our streetcar will be an important economic development tool for our entire city, accommodating visitors and residents alike. It will encourage walkability downtown, answer the question of how residents and visitors will circulate downtown once they arrive, and will inspire private investment all along the route.”