Oklahoma City's magnet is bigger than the oil patch.
Newcomers hailing from far and wide are being drawn to the metro area by the energy business, of course. But other business opportunities beckon — as well as the state's values and neighborliness.
Here's a sampling of stories from recent settlers on Oklahoma's newly unfolding frontier.
Jeff and Cindy Smith moved here for business' sake — their own. They're relocating the corporate headquarters of PrimeSource Mortgage from downtown Roswell, N.M., to Founders Tower, 5900 Mosteller Drive.
Jeff Smith is president and CEO of PrimeSource and is a Roswell native. Cindy Smith grew up in Denver City, Texas, 120 miles and just about the next town east from Roswell in that sparsely populated pocket of the Southwest.
“This was a big move for us,” he said, noting that they narrowed the choice to Dallas or Oklahoma City before finally picking Oklahoma City. Dallas is too big but Oklahoma City was just big enough for a growing company.
Publicly traded PrimeSource — symbol PSMH, traded over the counter — with 25 locations in 10 states, “needs people,” he said. Roswell, population about 50,000, surrounded by rangeland, could not provide them, he said — or easy travel.
“We're very, very thankful. People have been incredibly friendly,” Jeff Smith said of the personal move he and his wife made to a home on Buffalo Pass in Edmond's Iron Horse Ranch Estates. The addition is north of Coffee Creek Road west of Coltrane Road.
The Realtor who worked with the Smiths was Anne Wilson, of Paradigm AdvantEdge Real Estate. She said their story is a good example, and reminder, that real people are behind Oklahoma City's enviable housing statistics — and that the booming oil business and other major employers, for all their impact, are just part of the metro area's success.
“I've worked with people who are transferring in for a lot of different reasons. Most of the time it's work-related,” she said before ticking off a list of recent newcomers she's guided into homes. “For example: physicians or research scientists, executives with companies that are hiring one or two people at a time, a new hire for a large manufacturing plant, a business manager for a large corporation.
“And then there are several couples moving here to be near their children — or two different buyers moving back now as retirees who always wanted to come home. The big moves — Devon Energy moving 500 people — get a lot of good attention, as they should. But there are so many others moving in simply because Oklahoma City businesses are growing or Oklahoma City is just a great place to live.”
The Smiths already are doing their part to keep the trend going. Several other families will relocate from New Mexico when PrimeSource Mortgage's relocation is complete, Jeff Smith said.
Mike and Sandy Tisdale could be the poster couple for what most people seem to think of when they think energy boom “newcomer” to Oklahoma City. The Tisdales are in their 50s and empty nesters — and solidly established in the executive world of the oil business. He is a senior manager in materials management for Devon Energy Corp.
They hail from the Houston area, where they followed the energy business from Midland, Texas. Mike Tisdale worked in downtown Houston and lived in Kingwood, an upscale suburb and golf community 30 miles northeast. Here, he works in downtown Oklahoma City and they're building a home in Edmond's upscale Oak Tree golf community, about 25 miles north.
“The amenities in Edmond versus north Houston are very comparable,” Sandy Tisdale said, noting that costs here are a little higher.
Here, severe weather was an issue to consider, so the 4,000-square-foot house that Benjamin Floyd Homes is building for them on Oak Tree's Acorn Drive has a safe room. Ben Floyd is also a Realtor with Keller Williams Realty in Edmond. His Realtor mother, though, Mariana Verga Lloyd, also with Keller Williams, acted as the Tisdales' agent.
“We were thrilled with everything,” Sandy Tisdale said. “We've found it very easy to settle in to Oklahoma. People are very friendly and very welcoming, especially when they find out you're new.”
Business is good across most sectors in the metro area, but Floyd credits the energy companies with reviving the market for homes costing around $350,000 and more. Housing never did hit the skids here like it did in other parts of the country during the credit freeze and recession — but upscale homes hardly moved for two or more years and construction of them came to a halt.
“If we didn't have the oil and gas market in Oklahoma City, we wouldn't be building these high-end houses — and land would be a lot cheaper,” Floyd said. “Most of what we're seeing is oil and gas (related). Devon. Not so much Chesapeake. Some Continental (Resources). It's driving the market around here. We're seeing more in the $350,000-and-up range. They're moving more. It's turning around now.”
Brian and Alexis Lux, in their mid-30s, could be a different kind of poster couple — for U.S. housing. Theirs is a cautionary tale, although it does nothing to dampen their enthusiasm for having moved to Oklahoma City from the recession-racked upper Midwest.
They moved here in 2008 but bought a house just six months ago. So now they own two houses: the 2,000-square-foot place with a sunroom and swimming pool on NW 43 in a 1950s-era neighborhood, and the one they left, a smaller mid-'50s bungalow they bought in 2003 in North Canton, Ohio.
For three years, they were lessees and lessors, renting a house on NW 178 and collecting rent on the house in Ohio — and they're still renting it out, waiting for housing prices and the market there to recover.
No matter: Leaving Ohio was an imperative. They worked with Realtor Heidi Rose, of Keller Williams in Edmond.
“I met with her four years ago and we finally were in a position to buy this past summer,” Alexis Lux said.
Brian Lux was able to keep his job and work from home, although he now is a buyer for MD Building Products, based in Oklahoma City. Alexis Lux had job offers here, in Portland, Ore., and Nashville, Tenn., but Oklahoma City won their affections.
She is now director of development for the Oklahoma Heritage Association and Gaylord-Pickens Museum, and was recognized in the 2012 class of “Forty under 40” compiled by okcBIZ, the weekly business magazine.
“We love it here. We're never leaving,” Brian Lux said. “It's so easy to talk to people and become part of the scene here.”
He said neither of them found that kind of connection to community in Ohio, despite having grown up there.
“Obviously, we wanted to. We have here. But it's just a whole different attitude here,” he said.
About their house: It had to have a pool.
“The heat is really a lot for us,” he said.
About other kinds of weather? The tornadoes and severe storms of Tornado Alley? No worries. With local TV meteorologists commandeering broadcasts at the first sign of a storm, he said, “You just feel safe.”
Weather and politics had Rich and Marlene Deatherage ready to leave Michigan well before they knew they would relocate to Oklahoma. He was looking ahead to retirement from General Motors, where he spent a career in property management. She is an adjunct marketing professor. Their three long-grown children blazed the family trail away from the icy northeast.
Daughter Traci, 42, lives in Houston. Richard Jr., 43, calls Phoenix home. Daughter Tamara, 45 lives in Greeley, Colo., named for Horace Greeley, the New York Tribune editor who popularized the phrase “Go West, young man.”
“We were leaving regardless,” Rich Deatherage said. “We always knew that when we retired we'd move west.”
It was around the middle of the last decade when Oklahoma started to stand out as a possible new home, and not just because it splits the difference between Greeley, on Colorado's Front Range, and Houston — and that both cities, as well as Phoenix, are a nonstop hour or two flight away.
“In Oklahoma, a Democratic governor was doing more conservative things than most Republican governors,” Deatherage said of Gov. Brad Henry, who served 2003-2011. “It's a lot more conservative. And the climate is a million times better than Michigan's. That was another reason: to get out of the cold and gray. And to get out of the liberal politics.”
Deatherage said he took up shooting in anticipation of the move, and that he and his wife chose to build a house in north Oklahoma City because of gun ranges nearby.
They moved in just last week, to a neighborhood northwest of Pennsylvania Avenue and Covell Road — after three years of working mostly by phone and email with Paula Thurman, a Realtor and sales associate with Metro First Realty. Two Structures Homes, owned by Jay and Tricia Evans, was the builder.
“We did work with (Thurman) for three years before the purchase and, yes, she did stick by me. She showed my wife and I houses one year and showed me houses twice in the next two years. A very patient person,” Deatherage said. “The house we selected was just sticks when I saw it — ‘roughed in' is the term used, I believe. (Two Structures Homes) worked with me on the phone and by Internet, along with some of their suppliers. I thought it would be hard, but they all made it easy on me.”