Construction is set to move rapidly on the $125 million GE Global Research Oil and Gas Technology Center following a groundbreaking Monday led by Gov. Mary Fallin and top officials from one of the world’s largest employers.
The Oklahoma City research center is part of GE’s three-year effort to triple research and development investment in the oil and gas industry. The researchers’ work will include solutions related to production systems, well construction and water use optimization.
“GE is committed to leading the unconventional resource revolution, and technology is the core of who will win in this space,” said Lorenzo Simonelli, CEO of GE Oil & Gas. “Through increased research and development investment, the creation of tech hubs like Oklahoma City and Rio de Janeiro, and new partnership models, we are getting closer to our customers and bringing best-in-class technologies to market quicker.”
The research center, a secret prospect just a year ago, is set to open by mid-2015. Michael Ming, general manager of the research center, told a crowd of dignitaries the company has already hired 25 people from nine states. The operation is temporarily located in downtown’s City Place Tower. The research center is expected to employ 130 people when it is opened with visitors arriving from all over the globe.
“Today’s groundbreaking shows the remarkable progress we have made in such a short time to build and establish GE’s technology presence in Oklahoma,” Ming said.
Fallin described GE “as our most valuable player” and then boasted Oklahoma was chosen for the development over rival Texas. She then took a “selfie” photo with her camera that she indicated would be posted as a friendly jab to Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Ming noted the location of the research center, 300 NE 9, is just south of the Oklahoma School of Sciences and Mathematics, a residential high school for gifted students, and is surrounded by research and sciences institutions. Downtown, home to Devon Energy, Continental Resources, SandRidge Energy and other oil and gas companies, is immediately to the west.
The building will be visible to Interstate 235, and is also a short distance from many of the city’s top recreational, sports and cultural attractions.
“It could not be a better site for what we want to do,” Ming said. “It’s exciting for us to be surrounded by researchers and the bright students across the street. It’s such an exciting time for us to be here.”
Mark Grimes, Oklahoma City division president at Flintco, said utility relocations on the site are already underway. He said the company will employ about 200 workers on the site and a building will start to rise up quickly, within just a few months.
Cathy O’Connor, director of the Urban Renewal Authority, meanwhile, confirmed plans are underway between her office and GE to build a garage next to the complex to accommodate future growth of the operation. The site is currently controlled by the Urban Renewal Authority, and its commissioners are set to review final designs at their Wednesday meeting.
“We really wanted them to use the site the best they could, which includes structured parking instead of surface parking,” O’Connor said. “It will be a private garage, though we have agreed to looking at using TIF financing to assist in its construction. We think the garage and the whole development indicates a strong commitment they will continue to grow, have more employees, and we will see more development on the site.”