Session held on upcoming Cline Shale exploration

The Sweetwater Enterprise for Economic Development, or SEED, hosted the recent Cline Shale Session--which allows community leaders from several cities to hold a roundtable discussion on the oil exploration and development--on Friday, Dec. 14, at the local TSTC (Texas State Technical College) campus.Ken Becker, the executive director of SEED, served as the session host. Also representing SEED were board members Bill Johnson, Billy Whisenant and Dr. Jerod Peek.The participants of the discussion then introduced themselves, as several entities were represented from places such as Sweetwater, Abilene, Rotan, Concho Valley, Colorado City, Loraine, Snyder and Brownfield.Bill Lavers from the DCOS (Development Corporation of Snyder) was the session emcee, in which he stated that the event has grown in interest. The session allows for various leaders to come together to learn about the positive possibilities that lie ahead for the region as well as the state, where ideas can be shared and people can work together.The counties which were represented then gave updates on a variety of activities, upcoming events and the magnitude of the incoming industry. The Mitchell County Economic Development Board recently added a power plant to the area and has seen growth in several ways, such as around 1,000 employees in eight hotels.In Scurry County, it was noted that national retailers are beginning to show interest in the area. The superintendent of the Snyder school district was at the meeting, in which he shared how the growth has impacted local education.Since the first day of classes, slightly over 100 students have been added. In 2007, a new elementary school for 1,200 students was erected; today, the school holds around 1,300 individuals.As a result, the kindergarten class has moved to another building and a short term solution for growth has been the purchase of portable buildings. In the meantime, the district is looking at purchasing land and building another school which would be opened by the fall of 2015.While the magnitude of overall growth is unknown, the superintendent stated that if the growth isn't to its maximum anticipation, their current students would be able to enjoy a new campus. Three grade levels in Snyder have seen significant growth, mostly in the elementary school which contains 56 of the new students. Overall growth has taken place from the junior high campus and younger, and career tech classes are helping to retain Snyder's high school students.Also discussed for Scurry County was ETJ, or extraterritorial jurisdiction, which is where a government can exercise authority beyond its normal boundaries. Around 126 acres that are owned by the city are now being developed and lots are being sold.And as a result of the interest in the area, bids are soon being accepted. Housing has also seen a local increase, as 14 houses were sold in a 24-hour period in Snyder.Nolan County has seen the entrance of companies such as Devon Energy, Mercer Well Service, Energy Select and Washita Valley. The latter two companies will be filling up 85% of the Sweetwater Business Park.During the next few weeks, another company will be meeting with SEED to look at the remaining acres in the industrial park. Becker noted that the wind boom from 2006 to 2009 has been a valuable asset in planning for the oil boom. Other concerns within Nolan County include housing and local workforce.The chief appraiser in Fisher County noted that the area is seeing substantial development, as extensive leasing is taking place in the western half of the county. Increased economic opportunities are expected, and they are working with the county's groundwater conservation for standards and procedures while the development continues.And in Taylor County, which lies on the far east of the exploration, steps are already being taken to support the region as inquiries are coming into Abilene. With the regional workforce office located in Abilene, they are working on getting ahead in training.This story is part one of a four-article series outlining the recent Cline Shale Session in Sweetwater and its potential impact in and around the community. The session is "a roundtable discussion involving community leaders from various institutions in the region within the Cline Shale oil exploration and development area."