Are You Ready for the New FLSA Rules?

On December 1st, the new FLSA overtime rules go into effect.   These changes have many businesses, including your Chamber of Commerce, making significant changes to how employees are compensated.   Have you figured out what works best for your business?

The Chamber has hosted several events designed to get you prepared for this change.  I’m not an expert on the subject, but I’ll share with you what I believe, and that is; you’d better figure it out quickly!

Generally speaking, if you have salaried employees making less than $47,476 annually (or $913 weekly), you are probably going to have to pay them overtime for hours worked beyond 40 in a work week.   Many businesses routinely have salaried employees who work longer work weeks, and this new rule will affect them greatly.  I have heard from our members in the retail, restaurant and hospitality industries, and they are having to adjust their staffing processes greatly.

If you have salaried employees making significantly less than $47,476, you will probably be faced with need to convert them to hourly and manage them to avoid overtime.  This is often not received well by the employee and can create a morale problem.  There are other options that you should explore as well.

Please take the time to address this and plan your attack now.   You may need to work with your payroll company to put new processes in place.  There are a number of people who can help you navigate through this.  If you need help, please call the Chamber, and we will connect you with someone who can help.

Wes Smithwick is President and CEO of the Broken Arrow Chamber of Commerce.


The Changing Energy Industry


In 2014, Oklahoma companies in the manufacturing and energy sector were begging for workforce. They couldn’t hire people quickly enough to answer the demand and keep up with the products and services, creating a boom economy in any oil producing state. In Oklahoma this was also the case, with engineers being hired typically before they had even received their degrees, at unprecedented wages.  From Woodward to Miami, from Bartlesville to Ardmore, Oklahoma was seeing a time of low unemployment and creation of economic wealth tied to the energy industry in our state.  That was at $100 a barrel of oil. Then, in 2015 the boom slowed to a crawl, with oil dropping to less than $50 a barrel. The free fall continued into 2016, with oil falling to $28 a barrel.  Companies began shutting their doors, and layoffs happened throughout the state.  Employment numbers fell from nearly a high in early 2015 of 10,000 in energy manufacturing in our area, to just over 7,000 in 2016.

That was the bad news. Now for the good news.  The energy industry is changing, and shifting to meet the demands of a new kind of market. It could be another year, or even into early 2018 before the price completely and satisfactorily rebounds on a barrel of oil. That doesn’t mean there are no jobs in the industry, quite the opposite.  Business models in many of the mainstay companies are changing to meet the new demands of the industry.  Companies are focused on research and development, to encourage new products that will set them apart from other companies when the prices come back up. They are actively positioning themselves to be market leaders.  And they are also focused on developing the talent that will take them to the next level in this new energy economy.  Salaries which rose to over $60,000 annually in the energy manufacturing sector in 2015, have remained steady at that pace into 2016, dropping less than 1% over the past year as a result of the downturn.

With the average age of an energy sector employee now calculated at over 50, it is estimated that as many as 600,000 workers in the US will be retiring in the next 10 years.  During that time companies will need to take strategic steps to insure that historical knowledge is passed on to the next generation of the workforce.  While engineers may not be hiring into these companies at the rate of 2014, they are still hiring. In addition, these companies are going to need to fill a wide variety of positions, from logistics, to finance to HR.  And they are all still competing for the best and brightest of the millennial workers to fill those spots. While change is difficult for many, the steps being taken by savvy Oklahoma companies will solidify their place as leaders in the energy industry for years to come.  We are fortunate to have several energy based companies in Broken Arrow, who see this as an opportunity to improve their position in the marketplace and to attract the workforce they will need as they continue to grow.  We certainly are looking forward to see what the future holds for these great companies, who provide strong, primary jobs for Broken Arrow, and who create wealth for our community.

Kinnee Tilly is Senior Vice President of the Broken Arrow Economic Development Corporation.


Meet the Staff – Cassandra Buhler


Cassandra manages all events for the Chamber, coordinates our Ambassador Club and organizes all Ribbon Cuttings & Ground-Breakings.  She is extremely busy in her role, but she is a jack-of-all-trades who jumps in to help any team member that needs help (we love her!!!).

Cassandra holds a BSBA in Marketing Management from the University of Arkansas (Go Hogs!!), and has previously worked in various Event Manager roles at a non-profit organization, a large trade association and at a local event center.

When she is not at the Chamber, she enjoys working out at The Hub Gym, hanging with friends, and playing with her dog Tucker.  You will also find her at the zoo or aquarium anytime her nephew Isaac is in town from Texas.

Little known fact: Cassandra is severely allergic to coffee and as an Events Manager, she is always navigating how to get the coffee made for our events!

Drop Cassandra a line and let her know what a fantastic job she’s doing –!


The Oaks off Main Breaks Ground

The Oaks off Main Gorund Breaking

The Rose District has become synonymous with shopping, dining and nightlife in Broken Arrow and in the region. As such, it is now also somewhere that people want to live and work.  We are excited to see new housing developments, renovations, and rebuilds pop-up all around the district. One of the latest of these is being built just off of Broadway west of Main Street called “The Oaks off Main”. The project, being developed by Primus Properties and company, is going to bring 16 two and three-story “brownstone” style homes to the Rose District. These homes represent the desire of those in the community to be a part of this ever growing arts and entertainment district. Within easy walking distance of the heart of the district, this kind of project is just the beginning of a trend that is going to lead to more density and vibrancy in the district.

Having an inbound clientele to patronize the great shopping and dining establishments we have attracted to the district is important to their continued success. Likewise, it will continue to attract more great businesses in the future as we continue to expand. We are also seeing a desire for professional offices in the district, which completes the live, work, play trifecta. It is an exciting time to be in the Rose District, and we look forward to providing more exciting news of projects like this one in the future. Stay tuned!

For more information on this project, contact Bill Leet of Primus Properties – 918.408.2311.

NSU celebrates 15th anniversary of Broken Arrow campus


On August 11th, Northeastern State University celebrated a milestone by commemorating the 15th anniversary of the Broken Arrow campus.

“The foresight of the leaders of the city of Broken Arrow to embrace their role in providing access for students to earn a degree at NSU is inspirational,” NSU President Steve Turner said.

“The good people of Broken Arrow have dedicated their time, land and financial resources because they understand that college graduates have higher lifetime earnings, pay more taxes, and get involved in civic and community activities.”

Discussion to build the NSUBA campus began in the late 1990s when the Oklahoma legislature altered the University Center at Tulsa and opened the door for NSU to develop a new campus site within the Tulsa metropolitan area.

In 1997, the Broken Arrow Chamber of Commerce established a Higher Education Task Force to investigate potential university partners, and in 1998, the chair of that task force, Joe Robson, presented the case for a public vote for a $16 million bond and sales tax increase to support the establishment of the campus. On Dec. 8, 1998, Broken Arrow voters overwhelmingly approved the city sales tax to fund construction for Phase I of NSUBA. This phase funded the Administrative Services, Education and Business & Technology buildings.

While construction of Phase I of the Broken Arrow campus was underway, planning for Phase II began. Phase II included plans for constructing three additional buildings on the north side of campus: the Library, Liberal Arts, and Science & Health Professions buildings.

Again the city of Broken Arrow partnered with NSU and dedicated portions of the Vision 2025 money to support constructions of the Phase II buildings and in November of 2007, Phase II of the campus was dedicated.

Dr. Pamela Fly, associate vice president for Academic Affairs, explained that current research endeavors such as Dr. Kevin Wang’s work in biotechnology and NSU’s recent affiliation with Tulsa Research Partners and the Oklahoma Innovation Institute will foster increased collaborations and support Oklahoma’s workforce ecosystems in meaningful ways.

“NSUBA has enjoyed a strong partnership with the Broken Arrow community for 15 years, and it is time to celebrate those accomplishments and plan even greater things for the future,” Fly said.

As NSU looks to the future, Turner said, he is energized by what has been accomplished over the past 15 years and the spirit of the partnership between the city of Broken Arrow and NSU.

“There is no limit to what can be accomplished in the years ahead and I have every confidence in the leadership ability of our new campus dean, Dr. Roy Wood.”

Click here to read the full official release from NSU.

Three Pivotal Projects that Created a Great Future for Broken Arrow

By Wes Smithwick, President & CEO of Broken Arrow Chamber of Commerce

I am often asked what has been the secret to our city’s rapid growth and success.  Of course, there are many, many reasons for this including affordable housing, inexpensive land, room to grow, and many more. There are three very distinct things have shaped our community and our ability to grow and prosper:

The Broken Arrow Expressway

Originally opened in the late 1960’s, it didn’t fully connect to downtown Tulsa until around 1980. And, it wasn’t officially named the Broken Arrow Expressway until 1999. It is the opening of the “BA” that fueled our community’s rapid growth from 12,000 in 1970 to over 36,000 in 1980! Broken Arrow became the “city next door” and not the “town down the road.” It was the significant widening project around 2000 that really added to the expressway—in some places 10 and 12 lanes wide—all the way to the eastern side of Broken Arrow.

The Creek Turnpike South Loop

After a decade a political wrangling in the state legislature and numerous lawsuits, the Broken Arrow South Loop opened in several phases between 2001 and 2002.  The loop provided a critical near-interstate quality road that, when combined with US-169 and the BA Expressway, literally circles the city.  This ring gives fantastic access to almost all areas of Broken Arrow, making it very easy to traverse our city and the metro.

Northeastern State University Broken Arrow

NSU-BA recently celebrated its 15-year anniversary, after opening in 2001. Today nearly 3,500 students attend the universities Broken Arrow campus. The presence of a higher-ed institution in Broken Arrow makes it easier to attract and grow our advanced manufacturing entities (which pay high wages) and adds to our community’s quality of life.

Early Chamber leadership recognized the strategic importance these items would play in the growth of our community. Today’s Chamber leadership continues this tradition by working on new projects to continue our growth. Projects like interchanges on the Muskogee Turnpike and wider and improved arterial streets within the city. Additionally, we are supporting fly-overs on the BA at 169 and I-44, to ensure that our community’s transportation network is the best shape possible to make it easy to access Broken Arrow.

Excellence is our tradition and we plan to continue that by having the best transportation in the metro.

Traffic Counts

Is Your Business Gaining Exposure and Revenue from Pokemon Go?

This weekend I took my 10 year old to hunt Pokemon. While she was hunting, I was rediscovering a great little shopping center. There were lots of stores and restaurants that I had never seen. I made an immediate deal with my daughter – she could hunt longer than planned if I could shop. After a pinky promise to seal the deal, we were off.

She was successful – lots of “poke stuff” was collected. I was not successful! Nothing was open. I asked a few people around me if they were also rediscovering the shopping center. I got the same answer over and over – yes it was new to them and they wished the businesses were open.

Gaining exposure for your business is HUGE! Businesses crave it, we have to have it – it is how we survive. We pay BIG money to get exposure, hire staff and firms and experts to help us gain exposure – we all want it and we all need it. And yet, because it’s a funky craze, many are not latching on to the exposure they could be getting from Pokemon Go.

We want you to take advantage of the Pokemon Go craze.

Here are some examples of businesses that have jumped on board:

Andolini’s Pizzeria

Posted on social media about Lures & Libations encouraging people to stop by during a specific time to catch Pokemon and grab pizza or drinks.

Gelateria STG
Posted a discount on social media, giving Pokemon hunters a 10% discount, but also offering a fun discount to people who have no idea what Pokemon is.

Sandwich boards on the sidewalk welcoming Pokemon Go hunters, offering free water and a discount.

Hops & Hangers:

Offering free water, use of their wifi and they have charging stations so you can charge your phone in the air-conditioning while you take break from hunting.


On Monday, August 1st at 9a, the BA Chamber is going to host a Pokemon Go Brainstorming Session. It is a FREE event for our members. The first 10 minutes will be spent reviewing the basics and then we will turn it over to you for ideas. Click Here for more information and to register.

If you do not want to wait until Monday to get started, here are some great articles and ideas for taking advantage of the Pokemon Go craze.
Pokemon Go is likely a craze. In a few months my daughter will have moved on to something else.
Pokemon Go isn’t for all businesses. I am willing to try to help any business capitalize on it, but I am certainly stumped on some. (Number 1 reason for the brainstorming.)
Pokemon Go is not going to wait on you. It is happening now and you need to respond now.
See you at the Pokemon Go Brainstorming event on Monday!