Former Chronicle real estate reporter Ralph Bivins has a piece out today about rumblings that Exxon is looking build a big corporate campus north of Houston, consolidating its many local offices.
The good scenario: it also means the company will finally move its HQ to a real energy city and bring those 300 or so corporate jobs down from Irving.
The bad scenario: they abandon their downtown tower at 800 Bell, leaving a big hole in the downtown office market, and do the same when they yanks folks out of the Energy Corridor west of the city.
The rumor’s been out for a while (as current Chron real estate reporter Nancy Sarnoff reported on it briefly in October) but Ralph has some good history on the issue, which he calls “The Shaft of ’89”:
This is not the first time there have been rumblings that Exxon was planning something big north of Houston. Over 20 years ago, there was evidence that Exxon was evaluating some 1,000 acres south of Conroe. It probably would have been a good time for Exxon to move its corporate headquarters to Houston, but it didn’t.
Exxon eventually left a bad taste in Houston’s mouth. Exxon was ready to leave New York City and move its headquarters to the Lone Star State.
Houston, with its vast talent pool of the best in the energy industry, would have been an excellent location for Exxon’s headquarters. The prestige of having Exxon based in Houston, which already has many of the world’s largest energy firms, would have been an excellent addition to the city’s corporate roster.
Instead, on a day dark in October of 1989, Exxon said it had selected Irving, the Dallas suburb, for its headquarters. Houston business leaders were furious. I interviewed a bunch of business people that day and believe me, the anger was very real.
It wasn’t the number of jobs that made the Exxon relocation so painful. Exxon said only 300 people would be working at the corporate headquarters facility. But the fact that Dallas would be selected over Houston, the Energy Capital of the World, was an insult. It was a prestige thing for Houston business leaders.
Exxon said at the time that it avoided putting the corporate headquarters into a city like Houston where several major divisions were already located. Exxon division heads in Houston might have been intimidated if the Exxon CEO had an office in town, looking over their shoulders daily — or so the story went.
Other people said Exxon was lured by the maze-like D/FW airport because it had better international connections than Houston’s main airport.