Mike Huff moved back to Oklahoma City in June after spending nearly 16 years in Houston.
It was the oil and gas industry that led Huff away from the state. The same industry brought him back.
“The quality of life in Oklahoma City and the caliber of the amenities available in Oklahoma City are a lot better than they were just a few years ago,” said Huff, information technology director of geology, reservoir and drilling at Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy Corp.
Huff attributes much of the city's recent success to the growth of the local energy companies.
“Good jobs drive good amenities,” he said. “It makes it easier to provide better shopping opportunities, better entertainment opportunities and better cultural opportunities when so many companies are growing.”
The state's oil and gas industry created more than 12,000 direct jobs from 2009 to 2011, in the midst of the national recession, according to an Oklahoma City University study. More than 83,000 people worked in the sector at the end of 2011.
At the same time, the average oil and gas industry salary increased to more than $113,000, up from just more than $107,000 two years
“It's wonderful to have such a growing labor force,” said Steve Agee, dean of the Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University. “That's something you always want to see in a growing economy. Those high-paying jobs are good for state income and tax revenue.”
The oil and gas industry jobs have been created over a variety of career fields.
“The great thing about these jobs is they cover such a wide range from Ph.D. geoscientists to field workers with high school diplomas,” said Martha Burger, Chesapeake's senior vice president of human and corporate relations.
“There is a wide range of opportunities, all with great pay.”
Just five years ago, the concern among state and local leaders was that college graduates couldn't find local jobs and were forced to head to Texas or other states for employment.
That trend has been reversed as more graduates are staying in state and energy companies are recruiting from other areas, Agee said.
“There is no question we are now importing more people than we're exporting,” Agee said. “We're becoming a hub here.”
Continental Resources is in the process of moving employees to Oklahoma City from Enid. The company chose to relocate largely because management believed it would be easier to recruit new employees to Oklahoma City.
“People feel more comfortable when we recruit them out of Houston or Denver to Oklahoma City because if they get here and things don't work out with us, there are other options in town,” Continental CEO Harold Hamm said.
And the growth of Oklahoma City as an energy hub has been beneficial to all the companies, executives said.
“We compete for the same talent, but it has put Oklahoma City on the map,” said Susan Matthews, director of recruitment and retention at SandRidge Energy Corp., which has grown its employee base by 1,000 percent since 2006 and expects to triple it again over the next five years.
“We've been successful recruiting from Houston and Dallas, especially with people who went to school here in Oklahoma, got in the energy industry, went to Houston, and now want to come back home.”
While local companies each benefit from the other in terms of recruiting employees to Oklahoma City, once the workers are here, the increased competition provides more opportunity for an employee to jump to another local company.
“That's always a possibility. If we don't treat them right, they could be a gone Johnson. You run that risk,” Hamm said. “You just have to make sure you have a premier company that when people come here, they're going to want to work for you.”
It's wonderful to have such a growing labor force. That's something you always want to see in a growing economy.”