Communities in the Eagle Ford Shale region know from experience that an influx of oil and gas development can mean infrastructure updates, inflated housing prices, and an increase in traffic, among other impacts. In an effort to prevent the typical boom-bust cycle that occurs in many communities experiencing natural resource development, Shell Oil Company and the University of Texas—San Antonio (UTSA) have collaborated to develop community-based solutions in the region. With the goal of helping communities make the most of their existing resources, the UTSA launched a capacity-building training series. 1 The program aims to help communities plan for typical boomtown effects in a way that considers the long-term benefits to the community as a whole. For some of these communities, long-term planning to maximize the benefits of development has meant building strong collaborative relationships with their neighboring towns.
Shell has also funded a workshop series that focuses on how to build successful local businesses. The purpose is to develop realistic, achievable community vision plans with an emphasis on proactivity and preparing communities for the implementation of municipal improvement projects. For example, La Vernia, Texas has developed a unified plan for how to invest increased sales tax revenue. 2 Their overall goal is to invest in projects that will benefit the broader community and the town’s cultural environment. With this in mind, the city will be investing in downtown public spaces, not only to encourage business growth in the downtown area, but also to provide features that residents will enjoy. Local business owners plan to participate in this effort by using income from increased revenue to make updates and diversify their services. The city is also emphasizing strategic planning for long-term job creation.
While the training sessions are intended to help communities plan for their future, the program itself is temporary. It is designed to be adaptable, placing the importance of the desired outcomes in the hands of the community that will be affected. For the Eagle Ford Shale program, change is already afoot, due to Shell’s recent divestment of its acreage in the region. The effort is instead moving to the Permian Basin in West Texas, where development is booming.
For more information: Small business development centers and/or community colleges can often help with similar planning efforts. For more information on the UTSA/Shell project, please contact RESOLVE at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Pamela King, “Industry Initiative Helps Communities Embrace Boom-Time Opportunities,” E&E News, May 21, 2014. ↩
- Pamela King, “Texas Towns Consider Deep Makeovers to Prepare for Inevitable Oil Field Bust,” E&E News, May 20, 2014.