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April 4th, 2013 - Kelley Chambers

GE plans OKC research center

Gov. Mary Fallin joined executives from General Electric April 3 at the state Capitol to announce the company’s oil and gas arm plans to build a $110 million Global Research Center in the Oklahoma City metro area.

“For Oklahoma, this is a game changer,” Fallin said.

Mark Little, GE senior vice president and chief technology officer, said a site has not yet been chosen, but when completed, it will employ about 125.

“Our search for a specific site is underway,” he said. “We’re considering sites in the greater Oklahoma City metropolitan area, and we expect to be back with an announcement of our site selection soon.”

The center will be GE’s eighth in the world, and the first sector-specific center with its focus on the oil and gas industry. Little said the company will seek to employ electrical engineers, mechanical engineers and petroleum engineers among others.

“The jobs that we’re going to be hiring for will be high-end science and engineering jobs,” he said.

CEO Jeff Immelt said the center will harness technology to find unconventional oil and gas resources whether those are 10,000 feet above sea level, or 10,000 feet below sea level. He said finding those resources is becoming increasingly more challenging.

“We believe that it’s absolutely key to bring science, engineering and technology into the oil and gas sector,” he said.

Oklahoma City is already home to GE’s Oil & Gas Artificial Lift Business, which manufactures and services electric submersible pumps, and has more than 550 employees. Immelt said this is the first step for the research center, with eventual expansions in facilities and personnel here likely.

“We expect this to be the first seed in something that grows over time,” he said.

The company also plans to work with local universities that have energy-focused degree programs.

Steven Agee, dean of the Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University, added two energy-related master’s degree programs last year. The program has about 150 students. Agee said the GE announcement likely will lead to more energy programs at the school to train students to enter the oil and gas sector.

“This definitely will spur activity in all of these disciplines,” he said.

While site selection remains underway, and a groundbreaking yet to be announced, Little said the company is beginning to look for its first employees.

“Our shingle is up,” he said. “If you want a job, come talk to us.”

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