Devon Energy Corp. will close its Houston office and move hundreds of jobs to its Oklahoma City headquarters, the company said Thursday.
The Houston office is the operations center for Devon's oil and natural gas fields in Texas as well as Louisiana.
“Our employees in Houston have made enormous contributions toward Devon's growth over many years,” CEO John Richels said. “We appreciate the role each of them has played, and we look forward to welcoming many of them to continue their work from our headquarters in Oklahoma City.”
Devon executives said the move will make the company more efficient.
“Dramatic changes within our industry have made it more important than ever to respond quickly to new opportunities and to place our talented people in the best position to overcome challenges,” Richels said. “Oklahoma City continues to grow as a major hub of the nation's energy industry, and we believe our headquarters downtown provides us with an outstanding foundation for future growth.”
The company now has about 500 employees in Houston.
Most of the Houston administrative and support positions will be eliminated, but the engineers, geologists, geophysicists and other technical positions will move to Oklahoma City, Devon spokesman Chip Minty said.
“We still have all of our assets in our portfolio, and we are going to need hundreds of people to help us operate and grow these assets,” Minty said.
Devon's Houston office was home to about 1,000 employees until the company sold its Gulf of Mexico and international assets three years ago.
Devon has about 1,700 employees in its Oklahoma City headquarters and about 5,000 total employees.
“Consolidating our U.S. operations will improve our ability to quickly shift the focus of our workforce between project areas as economic conditions dictate,” said Dave Hager, Devon's executive vice president of exploration and production. “In addition, this move will improve the sharing of best practices and enhance overall operational efficiency.”
Industry analyst Fadel Gheit agreed that the move will make Devon more efficient.
“The move makes better use of the new tower, and being in the same building improves interaction and communication, which is a big positive,” said Gheit, an analyst with Oppenheimer in New York.
Ending the company's presence in the country's oil capital will not hurt Devon, Gheit said.
“The two cities are a short flight apart, and leaving Houston should not be an issue,” he said. “This decision was cheered by investors.”
Devon shares improved $1.15 a share, or 1.9 percent, Thursday to close at $61.63 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Devon's decision also was cheered by Oklahoma City community and business leaders.
“It's terrific from several standpoints,” said Roy Williams, president of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. “The additional payroll that will occur here is tremendous as well as the additional presence of that number of people downtown. It will add to the vibrancy of restaurants and will be good for hotels and the housing market.”
Not long ago, energy and other jobs regularly moved from Oklahoma to Houston, but Thursday's announcement continues a recent trend of jobs relocating to Oklahoma City.
“We are now net immigrating people as opposed to exporting them,” Williams said. “We're seeing more Texans moving to Oklahoma than Oklahomans moving to Texas. We're seeing the same trend from California and all the contiguous states. That brings in new talent, new entrepreneurs and new market capacity. It's a really good indication of the buzz and economic activity that is happening here.”
Jay F. Marks, Business Writer