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Fracking Counties Zero In On New Economies

Eileen Pace


Eagle Ford Shale communities are zeroing in on new areas of business they can fall back on once fracking is no longer bringing income into South Texas.

UTSA has been working with the communities on finding new opportunities to keep their economies strong, and for some, the question is not “If” – but “When.” 

DeWitt County Judge Daryl Fowler says his county has used its tax structure to prepare for a future without fracking.

“We have $33 million or so in our coffers for roads. If the oil and gas industry cuts back on its drilling activity, all that will do at least for us is slow down the growth in the tax base,” Fowler said.

But other South Texas counties may not be as well-heeled, and without the billions of dollars coming in through fracking, roads will continue to be a problem.

UTSA’s Institute for Economic Development has been working with the communities to develop diverse opportunities for their economic toolboxes beyond the oil and gas industry.

An economic development grant from the U.S. Dept. of Commerce has been in place for a couple years, so Institute Director Tom Tunstall’s group has met several times with community leaders to identify new paths that make sense for each community. 

“Such as olives and olive oil processing, or tourism of various types. Whether it’s eco-tourism or recreational tourism or historical tourism, all three of which exist in South Texas,” Tunstall said.

Tunstall said of the communities are working toward building trade centers.

He said although the counties can’t go into other types of economic activities right now -  heavy traffic and roads are still being damaged by oil field trucks - they can learn grant writing, build capacity, and develop long-term strategies to implement once the last truck pulls out. 

Eileen Pace is a veteran radio and print journalist with a long history of investigative and feature reporting in San Antonio and Houston, earning more than 50 awards for investigative reporting, documentaries, long-form series, features, sports stories, outstanding anchoring and best use of sound.