People are asking when "it" is going to "hit," but based on oilfield activity to the west, it appears "it" has already "hit" — and Brownwood, while not in the middle of the current oil boom, is preparing for the results.
That was the message of Brownwood Economic Development Director Emily Crawford, who gave a brief report to city council members Tuesday about the city's presence at last week's Southwest Energy Summit in Sweetwater.
Crawford and Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce Marketing Manager Ray Tipton manned a booth at the two-day summit on behalf of Brownwood. The summit included sessions on oil and natural gas, wind energy, nuclear energy, workforce and regional infrastructure, transportation and coal.
Brownwood's message at the summit: the city has land available for development, it is centrally located to most active oil and gas fields in the state and it has existing industries in the energy sectors.
"We recognize although we don't have a lot of wells being drilled or explored, we are actually geographically in the center of the state and we are able to reach most of the active oil and gas fields from about a three- hour proximity," Crawford told council members.
"We want to let suppliers and service companies that would like to service more than one of the clay shales or oil fields that they can do that from Brownwood and be geographically in the center."
Crawford said it was "very good for us to hear fact versus fiction of what's really happening in the Permian Basin and the Cline Shale."
Snyder and Sweetwater have developed new industrial parks within the past year, and Sweetwater is getting a rail extension, Crawford said; Snyder is getting five new hotels and has broken ground on a workforce housing project for 1,000 workers.
"So there really is a tremendous amount of activity happening just to the west of us," Crawford said. "People continue to ask when is 'it' going to 'hit' and I would say that 'it' has already 'hit' because of this activity that's already going on.
"However, we don't know how big it will get and how far it will reach. So we will continue to poise Brownwood for our existing businesses and for new businesses to relocate."
Mayor Stephen Haynes asked if it is believed the Cline Shale will extend into Brown County.
Runnels County has seen some drilling permits, but because the Cline Shale is large and has not been fully explored, "we really don't know how far east it will go," Crawford said.
She said she's been told the shale is not likely to extend to Brown County, but the activity in Runnels County "brings it even closer to Brown County."
There could be an influx of oilfield workers who are looking for housing in Brownwood, Crawford said. "A person driving 90 miles a day to commute is not unheard of," she said. "We are looking at attempting to get more of a housing inventory so that we can be ready if indeed that does happen."
Crawford said a group had done a study on the impact of wages and jobs created in the Eagle Ford Shale, and it is hoped the group will do a similar study on the Cline Shale.