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.”