With the prospect of General Electric joining the Oklahoma City skyline with the construction of a new research center, the range of public companies planting their flags locally has spread far beyond hometown favorites like Devon Energy and Chesapeake Energy to global players including Boeing and even Rolls-Royce.
Without such public companies, the skyline would certainly lack the new 50-story Devon Energy Center, a renovated Braniff Building and SandRidge Building, or the bustling Boathouse District along the Oklahoma River. Their generosity is felt throughout the community.
But amid the growing presence of diverse publicly-held companies, Oklahoma City in 2013 also saw the downside of the market as investor-driven challenges ousted CEOs at both Chesapeake and SandRidge Energy, and led to layoffs at Chesapeake.
Roy Williams, president of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, advises residents to keep perspective of the long-term benefits of public companies investing in the community.
“What people tend to forget is there was a time when we didn't have either one (Chesapeake or SandRidge),” Williams said. “Chesapeake came out of nowhere to employing 4,000. SandRidge didn't even exist and then went to buying the Kerr-McGee campus and employing hundreds.”
Despite turmoil that included CEOs Aubrey McClendon leaving Chesapeake and Tom Ward leaving SandRidge, Williams notes both companies still employ sizable workforces and are still significant contributors to community events and nonprofits.
Mayor Mick Cornett has seen an influx of hundreds of jobs brought in by public companies including the relocated Continental Resources headquarters, Boeing relocating its engineering and training operations from Long Beach, Calif., and Wichita, Kan., and the pending site location announcement of a General Electric Global Research Center.
Cornett noted the city, with the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, has worked hard to expand the presence of public corporations locally, and for good reason.
“In general, they have higher wages, better benefits than most business,” Cornett said. “Though job cuts are high profile, percentage-wise there are lower job cuts at larger businesses than small companies.”
Love of community
The very nature of public companies, especially those that start as homegrown private enterprises, translates into outside money coming into Oklahoma City, Williams said.
“When these companies go public, it means they are growing fast and they need capital,” Williams said. “And that brings significant financial infusion that wasn't here before.”
The community contributions made by the city's public companies range from free outdoor movie nights at the Myriad Gardens sponsored by Sonic, an array of recreational venues along the Oklahoma River created by Chesapeake, Devon and SandRidge, to a variety of nonprofits.
“They have been phenomenally good corporate citizens and they have made huge contributions to our community,” Williams said. “They do this because they love our city, but also to recruit and retain good employees by building a better, more diverse community.”