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Heat Exchangers And Tulsa's Economy

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Tulsa is known for its oil, its aerospace, ranching and farming. But did you know it's also known for heat exchangers. Probably not. That's one reason Tulsa’s mayor declared Tuesday as Heat Exchanger Appreciation Day.

News on 6 business reporter Steve Berg says the people in the heat exchanger business will be the "first" to tell you it doesn't have the pizzazz of aerospace and oil. But one thing it gives Tulsa is jobs.

Ed Flaxbart at Tulsa-bases Hughes-Anderson has gotten the blank stares before. "People don't know what a heat exchanger is. So you know you talk about someone ask you what you do, and you tell them you're in heat exchangers. So?"

So they had Heat Exchanger Appreciation Day Tuesday at Southern Hills Country Club. Tulsa has dozens of these companies concentrated here. And the Chamber of Commerce says they employ more than 5,000 people. "And the service industries that supply us with materials and services are also a very significant part of the Tulsa economy."

So what is a heat exchanger? Well, the simplest explanation is that it's kind of like the radiator in your car. If your car was the size of a small office building. Believe it or not, this is one of the smaller versions of heat exchangers they make here at Hughes-Anderson, clocking in at 96,000 pounds.

Many heat exchangers are used in refineries, but surprisingly, Flaxbart says the heat exchanger business was "not" an outgrowth of Tulsa's oil industry. Rather he said the original heat exchange companies located in Tulsa because of cheap, skilled labor.

Ed Flaxbart: "What you had actually was a couple of core businesses, which as the grew, you had break-offs from these businesses which started additional businesses. Eventually your big corporations, or subsidiaries of them that built exchangers, lost out. And the industry just gravitated to Tulsa."
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