Officials Talk Shale Boom Highlights, Lowlights

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By Joseph Basco

AUSTIN — Though nothing new was uttered at the daylong Texas Tribune shale boom symposium on Friday, it reinforced how the economic stimulation and job creation from shale drilling has also brought along a slew of infrastructure problems and environmental concerns.

The symposium brought out representatives from the Eagle Ford Shale and the Permian Basin, including Midland Mayor Jerry Morales and Permian Basin Petroleum Association President Ben Shepperd. The panels went through the economic impact of oil, the dynamics of the industry practices, infrastructure problems and industry sustainability.

The transformation of the Texas economy

Morales participated in the first panel, surprising attendees with the facts most Midlanders already know regarding the city’s low unemployment rate, staff shortages at restaurants and economic struggles that non-oil families have to contend with.

“One, you say it’s great for the economy, we have workers, but at the same time … industries talk about not being able to keep up with these high wages and overtime,” Morales said.

Morales was joined by San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor, Karnes City City Manager Don Tymrak and University of Texas at San Antonio Research Director for the Institute for Economic Development Thomas Tunstall. Each gave different perspectives on boomtown economics and its impact on small and large cities.

Karnes City, with a population of about 3,000, has felt even more drastic effects from the boom compared to Midland. Tymrak, when talking about how revitalizing downtown created a parking problem, said the city “trades one problem for another.” Another drawback of the boom for the small town is how the school district went from receiving money from the state to having to give money to the state in a single year because of the rise in property values.

Taylor’s message was that of poverty among minorities and uneducated residents despite the new job opportunities arising from Eagle Ford activity.

“We have a large population here that are poor and don’t have the skill sets to compete with many of the jobs in today’s economy and it’s an issue we’ve dealt with for a long time here,” Taylor said.

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