The accolades keep coming for the Eagle Ford Shale oil and gas field—the biggest economic development boost for the San Antonio area in recent memory. A report released Tuesday by the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation says the area already has scooped up more than 4,000 jobs from producers and service companies working in the shale play.
“We’ve never been handed anything like this before,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said.
The downside to the boom: transportation. Although potholed roads across South Texas counties have been highly visible problems with the shale play, Wolff said Bexar County has its own share of road woes. Bexar County will ask the Legislature to approve a $10 vehicle registration fee. If approved, the $12 million a year generated could help address roadways such as Fischer and Old Corpus Christi roads, which Wolff said need repairs thanks to heavier truck traffic in the southern part of Bexar County. Two Rio Grande Valley counties—Hidalgo and Cameron—already have the authority to levy a $10 fee. And Wolff said the area needs to do more to encourage rail growth and seek federal assistance for rail funding to help move some of the heavy trucks off roads across South Texas.
Although San Antonio sits outside of the shale play, the report said the city is well positioned for regional headquarters and supplying everything from workers, construction and goods to community college training for workers. Eagle Ford production topped the equivalent of 1 million barrels of oil per day in the third quarter. So far, Bexar County has picked up 4,060 jobs, many of them from oilfield service giants such as Halliburton, Sangel Corp. and Baker-Hughes. Some of the largest operators in the Eagle Ford such as EOG Resources, the play’s largest landholder and producer, Chesapeake Energy and Marathon Oil, also have opened San Antonio offices. The Bexar County payroll from the shale play is estimated at more than $186 million annually.
By 2021, the study expects Bexar County will have 11,627 shale-related jobs with a payroll of more than $507 million. Mayor Julián Castro said Eagle Ford is producing jobs in spades, but the city must respond with a skilled, well-educated workforce able to fill those positions.
“We have an unprecedented opportunity if we can train our workforce,” Castro said.
While Alamo Colleges has responded quickly with training such as an Eagle Ford “boot camp” for prospective workers, Castro said more needs to be done at both the high school and college level to make sure local residents are qualified for oil industry jobs.
“The capacity now is not where it needs to be in the future,” Castro said.
The report was done in conjunction with Bexar County and the city of San Antonio, and the 58-member task force in charge of the report includes a who’s who of the oil and gas industry and local politics and business — everyone from Gregg Goff, CEO of independent refiner Tesoro Corp., to City Manager Sheryl Sculley and Don Frost of Frost Bank. Former Mayor Henry Cisneros, who heads the Economic Development Foundation’s Eagle Ford Task Force, said Bexar County is part of a transformative period as the U.S. shifts to greater energy independence. He noted that the jobs created just in Bexar County are the equivalent of four Toyota plants.
“We are witnessing something once in a lifetime, once in 100 years,” Cisneros said.
He said the task force wants to work with San Antonio’s chambers of commerce to connect small businesses with opportunities in the shale play.
“We want to identify the small businesses that can benefit and put them in a position to do so,” he said.