The town of Gonzales is just like any other small and quiet town in South Texas until the Eagle Ford oil rush came. With the rush came very abrupt development, great economic boom, more job opportunities that pay higher than a regular Gonzales employee, and more money for landowners as they lease out their property.
Asher Price reports how the Eagle Ford Shale is changing the roles of the Gonzales folks. (Read full story here.)
Stories of rags to riches in Gonzales
Ranchers to riches
The report tells of some amazing stories of ranchers as they confronted the sudden turn of events in their lives brought about by the shale play. Nobody saw this coming, even an elderly woman who has a great tale that only Price can tell fondly:
“There’s the tale of the elderly woman who made her way to a bank in nearby Shiner to cash her first royalty check from the company drilling beneath her land.
‘I’m sorry, ma’am,’ the teller told her after inspecting the check. ‘I can’t cash that.’
‘Well, let me see the bank manager then,’ she said.
‘I’m sorry, ma’am, we can’t cash that,’ the bank president then repeated.
‘But surely you have the $15,000 on hand,’ she said.
‘I’m sorry, ma’am, but that check’s for $1.5 million,’ he told her.”
Work and more work
Jobs are no problem in South Texas. The influx of oil companies towards the shale and the booming businesses in nearby counties has created jobs that pay well. Here are some of the changes caused by the oil rush according to the report:
“Like a vortex, the opportunity to make cash has pulled workers from other sectors and other regions.
In DeWitt County, just south of Gonzales County, the county judge reports a dip in jail staffers, and more sheriff’s deputies are unwilling to work overtime because of more lucrative employment in the gas fields. A billboard on U.S. 183 South in Luling advertises gas companies seeking drivers with commercial driver’s licenses. Starting pay for those jobs has jumped in South Texas from $37,000 a year to $50,000 a year, said Noel Smith, director of the St. Philip’s Truck Driving Training School in San Antonio.”
More stories of wealth
While activities at the Eagle Ford Shale truly indicate massive opportunities in small towns like Gonzales, the stories of wealth add to the testimonies of these measures of economic success.
“Habits in a place like this stick around. So it was that 82-year-old cowboy-hatted Bobby Steen, raised in Gonzales, was hanging out at a Subway in a Shell station, trading stories with an old friend about the nouveau riche of town, such as the one about the woman at the Shiner bank.
‘You got lots of new pickups and Lincolns,’ Steen said, but other than that, ‘most people around here ain’t going to flash cash.’
‘People getting oil money are the ones coming in’ for new cars, confirmed J.K. Caraway, owner of a Ford dealership. Before the boom, he said, ‘even if they were wealthy on paper, owning hundreds of acres, they didn’t have the cash.’…
Some landowners have become so rich that the jump in wealth paradoxically threatens banks, said Ray Raley, president of the Prosperity Bank branch in Gonzales.
‘You’ve got people who have been struggling for years suddenly rich,’Raley said. The ranchers have decided to pay off their debts, he said, robbing the banks of interest income.”
These are just some stories from Gonzales that nonetheless represent the fortune the whole population has found from the Eagle Ford Shale. It is such a delightful thing to see that small towns like Gonzales are given the chance to prosper. Thanks to the shale play.