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The host of last week's Nolan County Forward Planning Committee meeting, SEED (Sweetwater Enterprise for Economic Development), gave an in-depth overview of the ongoing activity. The meeting was held at the Sweetwater Country Club.
Ken Becker, the executive director of SEED, noted that whether or not oil is found in the area, expansion is still taking place in the county due in part to the city's proximity to Interstate 20. Some media reports have offered a negative outlook that the Cline Shale development is either not coming or is slower than anticipated.
However, the overall area is seeing growth, not just one particular city. Many companies do not have a desire to move somewhere else because they have already established themselves in a respective area.
Two silos have been built near the Country Club which each hold 4,000 tons of sand, with a third to be built that will hold 5,000 tons. As a result, many rail cars and semi-trucks will be filled and transport the sand.
With the BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe) expansion, the Union Pacific Railroad, the proposed site of the USA Rail Terminal and another possible rail venture, Becker wants to help people understand that the rail will be used for various items and its availability is not in all locations. Sweetwater is fortunate to have the rail accessibility, which could be transported in a 100 to 120 mile radius of the town.
In addition, the West Texas Energy Consortium, which held their inaugural meeting in December, was established for the oil and gas industry to have a one-stop area for resources. Their annual conference is slated for June, and they hope to have an information website established.
While the Cline Shale is partly located near and within the Permian Basin, there is much activity in the West Texas area and growth is being seen in its own respective manner and area.
The local industrial park is currently full with buildings being established, with one company purchasing cement from Buzzi Unicem. The Maryneal plant is working at getting their name known through television advertisement and is planning on having a groundbreaking ceremony for their expansion.
In addition, SEED is in the process of buying an investor park. Furthermore, local development is being seen with the construction of a Studio 6 hotel and another possible lodging venture.
Unemployment for the county stands at less than five percent, but several companies in the area have a need for workers. Also, CDL (commercial driver's license) drivers are needed due to the growth.
And leaders in the area are making many efforts in learning from other areas in the country who have gone through growth from oil development. A three-day, four city tour of the Bakken Shale in North Dakota allowed for discussions to take place with community leaders, which determined that Nolan County has been proactive in the early stages of development.
Thus, the Nolan County Forward Planning Committee has a desire to get the information on the area-wide, varied activity out to the general public. By having entities provide the information--like opportunities, potential issues and proposed solutions, SEED would be the spokesman and develop a presentation based on the community information.
The presentation would then be offered to various service clubs and community gatherings, in which the feedback would be brought back to the committee. The committee also discussed their future meeting schedule, which could take place either on a quarterly basis or twice a year.
Author's Note: This final article in a three-part series recapping the updates given by the organizations represented at the recent meeting of the Nolan County Forward Planning Committee--from county-wide activity, community activity, and the overall economic development perspective.