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Williams rebounds

In 2002, they were nearly bankrupt, but the Williams Companies are reporting more big profits for the 1st quarter Thursday.

In fact, they've had profits for 7 quarters in a row now. As News on 6 business reporter Steve Berg explains, it's safe to say they're back.

Sometimes the signs of a company's comeback are small. "We're seeing a lot more Williams logo shirts in the hallways, \we're seeing a lot more participation." Community Relations specialist Amanda Hollon has been with Williams for 9 years and remembers those days when the company was just hours away from bankruptcy. "Sure it was a little nervewracking."

"We had to say goodbye to a lot of good employees and that was the hardest part." Human Resources director Jeff Branz says sometimes the signs of a turnaround are big. Such as the fact they hired 140 new workers in Tulsa last year and are looking for 70 new workers in Tulsa this year. "We are hiring an incredible amount, we have a major focus on recruiting and sourcing of candidates."

By just about every measure, Williams is out of the woods. "If we're speaking of that term to mean are we in financial trouble. I mean we have clearly turned the company around from a financial standpoint and we're very much about growth now." It's happened just as CEO Steve Malcolm said it would back in 2002, but he understands if you were skeptical. "I think there was a degree of skepticism and I think that was evidenced by the fact that the stock was slow to move up."

It hovered around $3 a share for more than a year, but has since climbed as high as $25 and is now at about $22.

And the company is spending about $2-billion on new projects, like natural gas drilling in Colorado. Williams debt is still high, about $7-billion, but that's just half of what it was in 2002.

Amanda Hollon: “It's definitely a different climate, much more positive."

On a related note, Standard and Poor's upgraded their credit rating on Williams Thursday to "BB-". They're just a couple of notches away from re-gaining their investment grade status.
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