Oklahoma Energy Secretary Mike Ming will leave his state post this month to lead the planned Oklahoma City-area GE Global Research Center.
Ming will become general manager of the Oil and Gas Technology Center, where he will be responsible for the facility's overall strategy and leadership.
“This new role will be to build the center from the ground up,” Ming said. “It's a huge opportunity to be an ambassador for Oklahoma, an advocate for the industry and to advance the mission of GE into the oil and gas space.”
GE, Ming and Gov. Mary Fallin last month announced the new research facility, which is expected to create 125 new engineering jobs.
“It's been a great two and a half years working for her (Fallin) on the policy side,” Ming said. Fallin thanked Ming for his service as energy secretary.
“Secretary Ming is a visionary leader and a tireless advocate for the energy sector and energy consumers,” she said. “He will be missed in this administration, but we are glad that he will be able to continue his work on energy issues right here in Oklahoma.”
Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association Vice Chairman Ronnie Irani praised the hire.
“Secretary Ming has been a true champion for Oklahoma's oil and natural gas industry,” said Irani, who is also president and CEO of RKI Exploration and Production. “He understands the role this state can play in the nation's secure energy future, and he has worked with the industry and the state to ensure we maximize our natural resources.”
Not everyone is pleased with Ming's new position.
Sen. Tom Ivester, D-Sayre, criticized the move as a possible conflict of interest.
“Today, we found out that Energy Secretary Michael Ming, who was surely involved in the effort to bring the GE Global Research Center to Oklahoma, is leaving his post to go head up this new facility,” Ivester said. “The state of Oklahoma handed out more than $3 million in cash payments and tax breaks funded by taxpayer dollars to GE to attract this research facility focused on energy technology. Millions of dollars in cash payments and tax breaks from the governor's Closing Fund and the Oklahoma Quality Jobs Program were used to close this deal.”
Ming, however, said there is no conflict of interest in him taking the new position.
“The Quick Action Closing Fund was established to attract new business to Oklahoma, and that's what it was used for. That was the governor's decision, not mine,” Ming said. “It's a great company coming here. The offer to lead the organization here came after that decision was made.”
Before accepting the state energy secretary position in 2011, Ming served as president of the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America, a nonprofit organization designed to help meet the country's energy needs with domestic resources. Previously, he was an independent natural gas producer in Oklahoma.
GE spokesman Todd Alhart said the company is pleased Ming has accepted the position and that his 30 years of industry and public service experience will aid development of the new center.
GE has not decided on a location within the Oklahoma City area for its new facility, but hiring has already begun, Alhart said.
“We hope to be operational before the end of the year,” he said.