John Stancavage: Energy keeps Tulsa ahead
BY JOHN STANCAVAGE World Business Editor
Sunday, December 30, 2012
12/30/12 at 3:37 AM
The energy industry generally is credited with keeping Tulsa out of the farthest depths of the Great Recession and, in the time since then, ahead of many metro areas in employment.
Petroleum continued to be a key force in the local economy in 2012, though the most successful companies behaved like champion prizefighters - they stayed light on their feet, absorbed a few blows and knew how to counterpunch.
One of Tulsa's most community-minded business headquarters, Williams Cos., spent most of the year quietly going through a major reorganization. Williams, you remember, ended 2011 by splitting off its exploration and production unit as WPX Energy.
Seeking the nimbleness of a welterweight, Williams took 12 months to study its remaining organization top to bottom and remake itself. Indeed, it was only in the past few weeks that most employees - including about 1,000 in Tulsa - found out what positions they will occupy in 2013.
The company wants to answer the bell with a strong start next year, especially after recently announcing a $2.25 billion acquisition of stakes in Access Midstream Partners LP and its general-partner holding interest. The assets strengthened Williams' position in some of the nation's largest shale plays.
Tulsa's other big energy employer, ONEOK Inc., also went through a significant reorganization at year-end. This one, detailed in a long press release, kept CEO John W. Gibson in place but shuffled managers in many of the senior roles beneath him.
ONEOK also is revamping its distribution companies - Oklahoma Natural Gas, Kansas Gas Service and Texas Gas Service. Together, the moves are designed to increase efficiencies and make ONEOK more competitive.
About a month ago, the company's ONEOK Partners LP unit suffered a knockdown when it had to scrap plans for its proposed $1.8 billion Bakken Crude Express Pipeline from North Dakota to Oklahoma because of a lack of commitments by oil producers. But I'm betting that ONEOK Partners will get up quickly and find another prize to pursue.
The desire for quickness and agility also was behind ConocoPhillips separating into two independent companies this year. Both brands from that split, ConocoPhillips and Phillips 66, remain major contributors to the Bartlesville economy.
Trends come and go. In a few years, market conditions may dictate these businesses beef up again to heavyweight status. But for now, all seem fit and poised to stand toe-to-toe with the competition. I'm glad they continue to choose the Tulsa area as their corner.
Original Print Headline: Tulsa stays ahead with energy