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Sombrilla

The University of Texas at San Antonio Online Magazine

Boom or Bust

Eagle Ford Shale communities are facing unprecedented growth;
UTSA is helping make sure the growth is long lasting

Helping 12,000 people keep their jobs and preventing a booming community from going bust is the focus of a new UTSA office in the heart of the Eagle Ford Shale.

Two hours southwest of San Antonio is Carrizo Springs, where UTSA’s Small Business Development Center opened an information center in November. The region’s economic success hangs in the balance.

"The state of Texas has a lot at stake," said Gil Gonzalez, the director of the UTSA Rural Business Program. "This is good for the region and for the state."

The Eagle Ford Shale, believed to be one of the most significant oil and gas plays in the country, now provides more than 12,000 workers with full-time jobs. Activity will continue to grow in the area, and by 2020, the estimated economic impact is expected to reach more than $21 billion, with 31,705 new jobs projected in the six counties most affected.

But there are risks associated with such a dramatic economic upturn. The enormous influx of workers is overwhelming the local economies. Cities are struggling to provide housing and other basic necessities quickly enough to meet the current needs. Residents are seeing housing prices skyrocket because demand far exceeds supply. While communities welcome the growth, they are already having challenges managing it.

To assist in creating a stable economy, UTSA opened the Carrizo Springs office in partnership with the Middle Rio Grande Development Council.

The center will help small businesses and communities research and create sustainable economic strategies for the future. It will profile the communities to determine emerging markets, unemployment rates and other economic factors and will ensure that the communities have the resources necessary to implement the suggestions for growth.

To make sustainable changes, the center also will provide grant-writing workshops and other training to help community leaders apply for federal and state grants.

"We’re not trying to tell them what they should do. They can build their own communities," Gonzalez said. "We’ll facilitate." The center will also provide a business-to-business tool, called a B2B, to connect oil and gas companies with local small businesses from the area.

With the unprecedented growth, Eagle Ford Shale communities must plan, invest and diversify their economic bases if they want to thrive, Gonzalez said. So this is one of the center’s main priorities.

"You tend to become a ghost town if you don’t plan for the future," Gonzalez said.

—Ashley Festa

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