Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Little Town That Could ...

More than once, I have said that the town of Fort Stockton has the greatest collection of over-achievers in the State of Texas. Recent headlines have me stressing that point once again.

This is the town that developed its local hospitality industry to a point that was the envy of the state and, on a per-capita basis, raised more hotel/motel occupancy tax dollars than any other community in Texas.

This is the town that, during the great oil-and-gas bust of the late 80s, decided to go into the private prison business. That venture got off to a rocky start, but local proponents persevered, and got together with the state to have the unit upgraded and adopted into the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Institutional Division, which brought a good number of state jobs to the local workforce. Under state direction, that venture proved to be so successful that, in the 90s, Texas built a second, larger unit outside of town - providing even more jobs to the local workforce.

This is the town that led so many in West Texas in developing the first windmill farms. It even tried to get wind power developers to locate a turbine assembly plant in Fort Stockton. That last part of the venture didn't work out ... but it provided a good indicator of how economic developers in Fort Stockton and Pecos County looked ahead and looked further than those in other communities.

This is the town that (in conjunction with neighboring Sanderson) welcomed an annual open road race ... something that Alpine rejected outright, and something that Midland tried - but couldn't maintain after it's single, innaugural run.

And now, comes word that SandRidge Energy will soon begin construction on a $1.2-billion plant to extract carbon dioxide from natural gas it drills in the nearby PiƱon field. According to this report from the Odessa American, that project will bring in 500 construction workers for two years, which is good news for this part of West Texas, which has already felt the impact of the recent downturn in the industry. The OA's report goes on to say, "When the plant is completed, it will be turned over to Occidental Petroleum, which will use the carbon dioxide in enhanced oil recovery in the Permian Basin. Oxy will operate the plant and treat the gas under a 30-year contract," which means long-term jobs added to the local economy.

There is also this report from KWES-TV/NewsWest 9

Mentioned and quoted in these reports is Fort Stockton Economic Development Director Doug May, someone I came to know during the time I lived there, and worked as Managing Editor of the Fort Stockton Pioneer.

Doug is good people, and I truly believe that a picture of him should be placed in the dictionary, under the heading "economic devlopment and diversification." To me, at least, Doug is one of the big dogs in this town of over-achievers.

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