Despite lingering questions about the new Affordable Care Act and its pending consequences on businesses, nearly half of Oklahoma certified public accountants believe the state’s business environment will improve, which is almost a 10 percent increase from last year.

According to the 2014 Oklahoma Economic Outlook Poll [1], which surveyed members of the Oklahoma Society of CPAs, 47.9 percent said Oklahoma’s business climate will improve, compared to 38.2 percent from the 2013 poll. Similarly, 44.1 percent said the Sooner State’s business climate would stay the same, compared to 50.1 percent from last year. Only 8 percent said it would decline, compared to 11.2 percent last year.

Regarding Oklahoma’s overall economy, more than half of CPAs said it would improve, while 38.4 percent said it would remain unchanged. Last year, CPAs were practically split on whether it would improve (41.2 percent) or remain unchanged (42 percent). A small percentage—8.2 percent—said Oklahoma’s economy would be worse in 2014. However, that is an improvement from last year when 15.5 percent said the state’s economy would be worse.

“We currently have a good economy in Oklahoma and we seem to be improving compared to the nation,” said Janelle Montgomery, CPA, an accounting professor at Rose State College in Midwest City, Okla.

Bill Schlittler, CPA, chief financial officer with Dolese Bros. in Oklahoma City, agreed with Montgomery.

“The Oklahoma economy has been humming along for the last two or three years,” Schlittler said. “It seems like the rest of the country is catching up with Oklahoma.”

Darrel White, CPA, a sole practitioner in Woodward, Okla., said the business climate in Oklahoma would likely stay the same, but that the overall economy in the state would improve.

“The energy industry is pretty stable, which has given us overall stability,” White said. “We do have a more business-conducive environment, which I think has helped us comparatively to many other states.” He added, “At some point, the national economy has to see some improvement, and I think we will benefit, especially in the ag sector.”

Andrea Welsh, CPA, an auditor with Barnett & Jones, Inc. in Tulsa, Okla., also said the state’s business climate would probably stay the same.

“I see Oklahoma companies spending money in Oklahoma, but I don’t see out-of-state companies moving to Oklahoma in any real measure,” Welsh explained.

More than 70 percent (70.1), indicated optimism for their own companies or firms, compared to 55.4 percent from last year; and 59 percent expect moderate increases in their business’ growth, compared to 47.1 percent from last year.

The job market forecast was slightly sunnier, with only 5.9 percent saying Oklahoma would see fewer jobs, compared to 7.9 percent from last year. In contrast, 51.1 percent of CPAs say Oklahoma’s employment will get better compared to 44.4 percent from last year.

As the most important issues affecting Oklahoma, 31.6 percent ranked the Affordable Care Act and health care costs as the most important issue facing the state, while 19.1 percent ranked Oklahoma’s public education system and workforce training as the primary concern. Interestingly, the Affordable Care Act and health care spending ranked third in top issues facing the country. Politics and government spending ranked first and second, respectively.

Dr. Tom Carment, CPA, a business professor at Rogers State University in Claremore, Okla., said, “The Federal Reserve is trying to keep us out of a recession while partisan politics are dragging us toward recession.”

Carment added, “There appears to be a tug-of-war over our future. May the correct side win.”

Ted Blodgett, CPA, CVA, ABV, JD, a partner with Gray Blodgett & Company in Norman, Okla., said the association’s members are “qualified financial experts in ideal positions to gauge Oklahoma’s financial outlook.”

Blodgett, who is also currently the OSCPA president, added, “Members of the OSCPA are all experienced, intelligent professionals. Whether they’re CFOs and CEOs of major corporations or nonprofit organizations, or working closely with small businesses as advisors, leading the future as accounting professors or making policy decisions as government leaders, CPAs are in savvy when it comes to economic trends. Whether you think the economy will get worse before it gets better or you’re positive the worst is behind us, remember CPAs across Oklahoma offer financial advice year round.”