THE holiday with a bunny-and-egg motif has come and gone. Elsewhere, a chicken-or-the-egg question has been answered.
Which of the following had to come first: Oklahoma City offering enough amenities to attract skilled energy industry professionals, or having enough such professionals to support the amenities?
The answer is yes.
Next question: Which came more recently, the exodus of large energy firms to Texas or the exodus from Texas of many skilled energy professionals?
The answer is the latter.
Adam Wilmoth, The Oklahoman's energy editor, has taken note of recent trends in energy industry employment. A few years ago, local industry giants such as Devon and Chesapeake worked hard to convince people to relocate here. Chesapeake's Mike Huff, a recent Houston transplant, told Wilmoth that the quality of life in Oklahoma City has greatly improved along with the offering of amenities. “Good jobs drive good amenities,” he said. We would add that good amenities drive good jobs.
So which came first, the jobs or the amenities?
Again, the answer is yes.
The jobs already here and the energy firms already in place supported the development of amenities that made it easier to attract employees, who in turn increased the support base for further amenities and the resultant advantage in recruiting.
A key factor in the decision to move energy firm headquarters to Houston has been the ability to hire employees away from nearby firms. This is now happening here due to the number and the size of firms. It's a recruitment tool in and of itself: Employees making the move from Houston or Dallas or Denver want to know they won't necessarily have to move again to advance within the industry. Instead, they could change employers locally.
The amenities, the opportunities and the size of the local job pool came into play with the decision by Continental Resources to move from Enid to downtown Oklahoma City. No disrespect to Enid, but it's simply easier to get professionals to move here than to Enid. And it's easier to get professionals who are already here to move down the street rather than up or down the state.
Current trends were flowing in reverse 10 to 20 years ago. Phillips Petroleum decamped from Bartlesville to Houston. Kerr-McGee left Oklahoma City for Houston. Mergers and acquisitions were factors, but the desire to center in Houston was integral.
Oklahoma is trying to attract all kinds of jobs, but petroleum industry jobs are especially lucrative. The average annual salary for such jobs is $113,000. This should be considered in the current debate over reducing personal income taxes because Texas has no personal income tax.
Oklahoma City doesn't have all the amenities of a Houston, Dallas or Denver — at least not yet — but it has the advantage of lower housing prices, cheaper property taxes and fewer traffic headaches.
So which of the following will come first: An influx of highly paid professionals that will push up home prices and increase traffic congestion, or an increase in amenities that make those things less of a disadvantage?