Williams Merger Could Impact Tulsa-Area United Way

Monday, September 28th 2015, 11:20 pm
By: News On 6

One of Tulsa's largest employers, and a long-standing civic mainstay, is being sold in a deal worth $37 billion.

Williams Companies is going to a Dallas-based company called Energy Transfer Equity, and the impact on Tulsa is still uncertain.

9/28/2015 Related Story: Tulsa's Williams Companies Announces Billion-Dollar Buyout Deal

Jobs losses are likely, as with any merger, and Tulsa loses a corporate headquarters; company leadership is having a meeting with employees Wednesday to talk about what's happening.

Williams is a big pipeline company - their network covers North America, but their corporate roots run deep in Tulsa.

Williams has 1,000 employees in Tulsa and 7,000 worldwide.

For decades, the Williams name has gone hand-in-hand with Tulsa; a lot of that is due to the support the company and its employees have shown the community, especially the Tulsa-area United Way.

Monday was just day one of a merger that could take months to finalize; but the United Way in Tulsa is hoping the new group is just as invested in the community as Williams has been for decades.

The annual Day of Caring is one of the largest events for the Tulsa-area United Way. Of the 5,000 people who volunteered earlier this month, Williams’ employees made up most of them.

“The investment is huge, but it goes beyond that. It is the treasure and talent of the employees,” said United Way President and CEO, Mark Graham. “They are out in the community doing it, and it’s quite a legacy.”

Williams is one of only five United Way cornerstone organizations. To earn that title, you need to raise $1 million or more during the annual campaign - Williams has done that consecutively for the last 25 years.

Graham said, “When you think of the impact those cornerstone organizations have, Williams being one, it’s a big part of our work and the work we do in the community has a huge impact.”

So, with a new player in the game like Energy Transfer, what could happen to that legacy Williams has built?

Dr. Tracy Suter, a business expert and professor at OSU, said it will most likely continue, but some things could be put on hold for a while, as the company re-establishes itself and its new model.

“The first responsibility Energy Transfer has is to meet the needs of all shareholders, including new Williams acquisition shareholders,” said Suter.

And that if they make the choice to be a part of the community the way Williams has, that opportunity is here for them.

“Williams is important part of this community, and in partnering with them, they’re partnering with Tulsa,” Suter said.

And the United Way is taking a glass half full approach to all of this.

“So the way I look at it, is it is a part of the fiber of the community. There’s change, and you hope that what has made the company so successful and attractive for ETE goes forward in the future,” Graham said.

United Way is in the middle of this year's campaign and doesn't expect the merger to impact anything this year, as these transactions take time.