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Will Tulsa Reign Again as the Oil Capital of the World?

Will Tulsa become the oil capital of the world again?

When I was a kid, my father exported oil field equipment overseas.  We lived in New York because New York City was the place from which everyone did their exporting. (He had moved his family there in 1940 from Houston, Texas in order to be in the export business.)  However, Daddy’s clients were in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Whenever Daddy left home he would stop in Tulsa first, visit his clients, then stop in Houston, and then head on to Mexico, South America, and later on Australia and the far east.  He always talked about the Oil Show, the IPE (International Petroleum Exposition), and the fact that Tulsa was “the Oil Capital of the World.”

Then in 1976 my parents moved back to Houston along with everyone else who was involved in “the oil boom.”

When I moved to Tulsa in 1984 there were still many large oil companies in downtown Tulsa.  Then “the oil bust” came and everyone started leaving town and moving to Houston.  Tulsa no longer was the de facto oil capital.

Downtown Tulsa Unlimited struggled to keep downtown vibrant.  Then The Williams Companies diversified into the telecommunications industry and things started hopping downtown again.  Oops, Williams Communications and Worldcom declared bankruptcy in the same year.

The strength of Tulsa’s economy has been in the fact that there are many small companies here that support the oil business.  While many of the majors had left town for Houston, we still had Helmerich & Paine, Parker Drilling, Hilti, Baker Oil Tools, etc.

Added to the oil industry were businesses specializing in aviation, telecommunications, and call centers.

What will be the impact of Hurricane Ike’s having slammed into the Houston ship channel and the refineries along the Gulf of Mexico, not to mention the skyscrapers in downtown Houston?

Will the captains of the oil industry reconsider their having moved their capacity directly into the jaws of storms which seem to be coming with greater ferocity and frequency?

Will the oil industry retreat back into the mid-continent?

Will Tulsa once again become the true “oil capital of the world?”

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