Oklahoma Oilmen Series: Mike Cantrell - 6/2/2014

There are many great things to say about Oklahoma’s oil and natural gas industry and the impact it has on our state, but some of the greatest stories come from the people behind it all, the Oklahoma oilmen who have contributed to the success of the industry. Mike Cantrell is one of the men who has shaped the face of the state’s industry over 54 years, helping make it what it is today.

Cantrell grew up on a farm in Lovelady, which is outside of Ada. He got his start in the oil industry at the age of nine, tailing rods for his dad. When it was time for him to choose a career path, Cantrell said he didn’t hesitate.

“Growing up in an oil patch family I saw the good, bad and ugly but the lure of finding oil and gas and being my own boss was just too strong to do anything else,” he said.

So, he built his own company, Cantrell Investments LLC, and used business acumen to help it grow and survive the lean years. 

“In the downturns we sold assets. In the upturns we bought them back,” he said. “The key to survival to me has been to always run my oil business as a business, being willing to grow slowly with patience.”

He also said keeping up with current technology has been key.

“Over a 50 year career, I would say the biggest change is the technological impact of horizontal drilling. This has opened up reserves we could never harvest before,” he said. “We all have to keep up with technology. I do it better than my dad and grandpappy and my son does it better than me.”

While managing his business, he also founded and built many organizations that support the interests of the oil and natural gas industry. Cantrell is a co-founder of the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board (OERB) and served as the first Chairman from 1992 to 1993.

Mike Cantrell played a major role in making the OERB a reality. He and a handful of dedicated producers first tried to sell the idea of a national check-off program. When that didn’t pan out, they remained determined. They came back to Oklahoma and started working a statewide pilot program. Their determination is the reason Oklahoma has such a successful program today.

“Working under the direction of Mike Cantrell as the OERB’s first chairman was inspiring for me. I could see the passion he has for the industry and the love he has for this state,” said OERB Executive Director Mindy Stitt. “After his term as chairman, Mike remained a devoted board member. He has certainly left a wonderful, lasting mark on this organization.”

He also co-founded the Domestic Energy Producers Alliance (DEPA), which is a nationwide collaboration of oil and gas producers, royalty owners and trade associations working together to influence U.S. domestic oil and gas issues. He still serves as the Government Affairs Director for DEPA. In fact, oil and natural gas legislative issues have become one of his biggest contributions to the industry.

In addition, Cantrell serves the state and his community as a board member for the Oklahomans for Workers Compensation Reform, Oklahomans for Lawsuit Reform and Citizens Bank of Ada. He is also the Chairman of the National Stripper Well Association.

His advice to the future generation of oilmen and women?

“Remember, your friends want to see you do good, just not too good. Keep your own council and never let your pride get in front of your profit,” he said. “Be a business person first and an oil and gas producer next.”

After 54 years working in the oil and natural gas industry and leaving his fingerprints on many pro-oil and natural gas organizations and pieces of legislation, there is no doubt Mike Cantrell is the portrait of what it means to be an Oklahoma Oilman.