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At the time, it was considered revolutionary to move researchers and engineers away from the oil fields and consolidate them in a centralized locations like Houston because conventional wisdom in the industry held that these specialists would lose their feel for the oilfield. Instead, consolidation allowed for far greater collaboration among workers as they tried to find better ways to discover and exploit oil reserves.
"It was a very high-risk decision," Little recalled. Other companies eventually followed Shell's lead.
The news of Shell's plans to consolidate operations in Houston became public in August 1969. "Shell to Move 1,000 Workers Here," the Houston Chronicle's banner headline blared. The final number was closer to 1,400.
New York, meanwhile, had become increasingly expensive and Shell's president, Dick McCurdy, wanted to shrink the company's footprint there.
Shell started relocating people from New York in 1970 as One Shell neared completion. Shell moved people in shifts: after they finished work on a Thursday in New York, and they'd start on Tuesday in Houston. Only one day of work was lost each week.
Shell also had to hire a lot of new people. Roughly 700 of the New York workers refused to move.
"Let's face it: It was a little bit of a culture shock," Little said. "Most who made the move were pleasantly surprised."
By 1971, only the uppermost Shell Oil executives remained in New York. That soon changed. The new president, Harry Bridges, decided to move the corporate headquarters to Houston and One Shell Plaza.