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The Sweetwater Enterprise for Economic Development, or SEED, hosted the fall meeting of the Nolan County Forward Planning committee on Wednesday at the Sweetwater Country Club.
The gathering allowed community leaders from various fields to converge and discuss the impact and consequences from the incoming Cline Shale oil development.
Among the opening discussion was an update on the public forum held on June 27, which featured speakers Jeff Labenz-Hough, Robert Reyes and Vanessa Zientek. Overall, the committee felt that the forum was very informative.
The summer meeting gave attendees an outlook on the oil activity in south Texas and how Nolan County can learn from their progress. Art Maberry, SEED board president, said that although the progression is not as fast as originally anticipated, activity in the area continues to move ahead.
Gail Lawrence, the president of TSTC (Texas State Technical College) West Texas, said that the industry perspective was valuable, notably the information on how various "waves" of people and activity come to the area. The third wave, it was noted, tends to bring an influx of people, as oil field workers typically move their family to the area.
Families are a vital aspect of the overall development, in which local education is of utmost importance as well. The public schools and college are strong, as they continue to make changes to be relevant to the area.
Nolan County Sheriff David Warren stated that he would like to see another public forum planned in the future, as he heard positive feedback following the June meeting. A concern was raised, however, on how to get a high number of citizens to attend these types of forums.
The meetings, as stated by SEED executive director Ken Becker, give residents an opportunity to learn about the workforce, various aspects of the development and get a glimpse of the big picture. Kirstin Smith, the assistant admin/marketing director of SEED, echoed that the forum lets county citizens know what to look forward to, thus letting them know how to help.
And for those who are unable to attend these types of meetings, local media has proven to get the word out. Newspaper and radio reports help jump-start the conversation after the forums and also offer a different perspective.
The committee seemed open to setting up another forum, which prompted discussion on where to go following their meeting. Since transportation is such a big concern as oil development progresses, the idea was raised to also include leaders in the transportation industry as guest speakers.
While SEED hosts these events, Becker stressed that the planning should be done collaboratively and welcomed input on future ideas. Leading up to a future meeting, Becker added that an opportunity has risen to visit three cities in North Dakota who have experienced the activity that will soon come to Nolan County, which would be a learning tool and very informative.
Technology continually changes during the oil development, while water concerns are raised but are being dealt with by the oil industry. Some estimates, however, are citing that the Cline Shale could bring four times more oil than the Eagle Ford Shale in south Texas.
But although growth is being seen in drilling ventures, the wind industry continues to make an impact in the county. While the county continues to prepare for the oil industry, the goal is to make sure that all industries continue to thrive.
This article is the first in a two-part series recapping the fall meeting of the Nolan County Forward Planning committee, as they continue to learn and prepare for the incoming oil development from the Cline Shale.