Direct Energy to cut 80 workers in Tulsa
BY ROD WALTON World Staff Writer
Saturday, April 28, 2012
4/28/12 at 4:56 AM
Direct Energy, an electricity and natural gas retailer that announced it would hire 115 people in Tulsa last year, has reversed its plans and now will lay off 80 local employees later this year, a company official said Friday.
The operations hub in Tulsa will lose those workers beginning in November, Direct Energy spokeswoman Claire Monaghan confirmed.
The employees were told of the layoffs Thursday.
"We wanted to give them time to get themselves prepared," Monaghan said. "We have some great folks; it's difficult."
The workforce reduction is a dramatic about-face for Direct Energy. The company, which provides utility services to 6 million customers in 46 states, also is moving from its home at the CityPlex Towers to the Road Science complex at 65th Street and Yale Avenue.
The move will happen this summer. Direct Energy has signed a five-year lease on that facility, Monaghan said.
"Long term, we likely will be growing," she said.
For the short term, however, Direct Energy has opted to streamline operations. Most of the Tulsa jobs being cut include those related to processing center positions, while information technology and higher-level customer service functions will remain intact.
"It isn't about the economics of the business itself," Monaghan said. "It's about streamlining operations to make them simpler."
The simplification is necessary to compete with rivals, she added.
Five months ago, Direct Energy's growth model called for expanded hiring at the operations hub in Tulsa. The company planned to add $7 million in wages and reportedly started hiring immediately.
Direct Energy employed 160 Tulsa workers as of November. The workforce will total about 220 once the layoffs are complete, Monaghan said.
"We've hired a large majority of the roles we advertised back in November, with only a small number not filled," she replied to an emailed question from the Tulsa World.
Some of the eliminated work functions will be outsourced, although she said she did not know the details surrounding that plan.
Tulsa Metro Chamber President and CEO Mike Neal called the cuts a difficult decision for the company. He noted that hiring is increasing locally.
"We are hopeful, however, any job losses can potentially be absorbed by other employers in the Tulsa area," Neal said in a statement. "The prospects for laid-off employees are encouraging as the Tulsa region continues to experience solid economic growth."
Original Print Headline: Direct Energy to cut 80 workers
Rod Walton 918-581-8457