Community Series: Industry's Impact on Economic Development - 3/6/2014

Oklahoma City is in the middle of a renaissance. Emerging businesses, booming restaurants, a low unemployment rate and a completely renovated downtown have made Oklahoma City residents proud to live here. Over the years, the oil and natural gas industry has played a vital role in the economic development and renaissance of the city. Simply driving around downtown Oklahoma City and seeing the names of major energy companies on the buildings, or reading the names of the sponsors at any major sporting event, concert or play, gives you an idea of the reach the industry has across the city.

“Vacant buildings and boutique offices are now filled with corporate headquarters and employees are supporting new downtown retailers,” said Dustin Akers, Project Manager for The Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City, Inc. “Oil and natural gas companies are major supporters of downtown economic drivers including our sports teams, tourism and the arts.”

One place you can see the industry’s influence is in the sold-out Chesapeake Arena during an Oklahoma City Thunder game. Chesapeake Energy purchased the arena’s naming rights, and many industry companies support our NBA team through sponsorships and other initiatives. Each game brings in thousands of fans from all across the state, which means big business for nearby vendors and restaurants. 

Project 180, which is renovating 180 acres of downtown streets from building face to building face, is another example of an energy company investing in the economic development of the city. Devon Energy voluntarily donated the money from its Tax Increment Financing District to be used to update the surrounding downtown streets.

“The development of the Devon Energy Center created the opportunity for Project 180 to dramatically transform the appearance and functionality of our downtown streets, sidewalks and parks,” said Akers. “In fact, $125 million dollars of Tax Increment Funding from the construction of Devon Tower has helped pay for the improvements.” 

The industry’s influence in the development of Oklahoma City has also made an impact in more subtle ways. Many companies take the time to invest in the betterment of our community through volunteering or donations. Chesapeake Energy’s H.E.L.P. (Helping Energize Local Progress) initiative encourages its employees to volunteer in their local community throughout the year. Devon Energy invests in youth and education, the arts, civic initiatives, the environment and emergency response agencies through monetary donations, in-kind support and fundraising efforts. Continental Resources  “Continental Cares” initiative invests in the education of future leaders. Most oil and natural gas companies large and small support their employees giving back to the community.

As the oil and natural gas industry continues to rise, so too will Oklahoma City. According to Akers, the industry has helped make Oklahoma City internationally competitive for new businesses including the recently announced General Electric Global Research Oil and Gas Technology Center.

“We will continue to experience an incredible renaissance, supported by the oil and natural gas industry,” said Akers. “More industry leaders will choose to locate their businesses in Oklahoma City and they will continue to create high-quality, high-wage jobs.”

How is your oil and/or natural gas company supporting economic development in Oklahoma City? Let us know by emailing