So Long CITGO
CITGO let the other shoe drop today and announced they have accepted Texas' multi-million dollar bribe to move its HQ to Houston. Not much of a surprise given trends in the industry but it's unknown whether the move could have been averted. While states can roll out all kinds of company-specific incentives to get a company to move into a state they can't very well pay companies to stay put. To do so would evolve into a spiral of corporate blackmail of cities and states. It is safe to say that Oklahoma and Tulsa could have done much more than they did. The Governor and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce leadership still have no plan for business retention - other than a half-hearted attempt at tort reform. The new state leadership has had plenty of time to establish a business retention SWAT team but have been mired in a muddle of inaction. Secretary of Commerce Kathy Taylor is spread too thin and has no experience in economic development. Governor Henry hasn't yet figured out he is governor and not a Legislator anymore.
For its part CITGO is now run by Venezuelan ex-military loyalists to President Chavez. Chavez fired all the professional managers when they revolted against his totalitarian tendancies and put soldiers in their places. CITGO is thus adrift and operated by novice executives. On the Oklahoma side - the new Henry Administration quickly replaced most of the state's economic development professionals with international experience with personal friends with marginal experience in economic development. When Henry came to office the Commerce Department had one expert on CITGO and she was let go.
On the Tulsa side the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce failed to develop a relationship with CITGO's Venezuelan leadership - in part because the Chamber has no international professionals on staff - not one.
Could this loss to Tulsa have been averted - only if the state and its cities get savvy and less political - because Texas has the money to buy all of our headquarters companies.