Group in Permian Basin’s Cline Shale brings together companies and communities to make the area better for work and living.
At the height of the Cline Shale boom in 2012, it was chaotic in West Texas.
Those involved in the oil and natural gas areas were mostly working on their own as separate entities. When Cline Shale Alliance was formed that year, its goal was to bring everyone together.
“We’d seen all the difficulties in the Bakken and western Canada and Eagle Ford, and all those questions and challenges all those communities had,” says Cline Shale Alliance Executive Director Greg Wortham, who is also the executive director of Texas Wind Energy Clearinghouse. “When we started Wind 15 years ago, we saw all the challenges communities had, and the thing they weren’t used to was working together.”
Until that point, regional companies didn’t share resources. “With Wind, we were all going to win. Let’s figure this out and let’s all grow together. Let’s share the opportunities and let’s share the lessons,” Wortham says. “From that, the Cline Shale Alliance was going to be the same thing, because we’ve seen the difficulties.”
A VALUABLE FORUM
The Cline Shale Alliance, which is a private sector action group, serves as an information exchange, regional development and valuable networking forum. “That’s a lot of what we do, an intermediary between communities and industry,” Wortham says. “Everything from community preparations, zoning, strategies and where does someone want to put their oil operations.”
Cline Shale Alliance also organizes and coordinates periodic leadership luncheons and intensive substantive workshops throughout the Cline Shale region.
Ken Becker, executive director of Sweetwater Enterprise for Economic Development, was involved in helping start the alliance. He knows firsthand the impact the organization has had in the eastern shelf of the Permian Basin.
“We know that as Sweetwater, Texas, we’re not big enough to make a difference in every little market we get into,” Becker says. “But when you partner with other communities and partner with other businesses, that really helps you get a whole lot better coverage.”
Sweetwater Enterprise for Economic Development is one of about 50 member organizations that use Cline Shale Alliance’s expertise. “We work for everybody. It doesn’t matter if you’re a member or not,” Wortham says. “Members just help defray the expenses, but the needs are based on the geography, in this case the oil.”
The number of members can fluctuate depending on the price of oil. Right now, membership numbers are stagnant.
“When the price of oil is $100, there are a lot more people who need information and need to move quickly,” Wortham says. “If the price is low, fewer companies are expanding and companies have a much calmer time. When all the oil reservoirs are up in price then there’s that much more intensity. Every minute they’re not producing the oil is a lot more money being wasted, so they need as many people answering questions as possible. That’s one thing that we do.”
Wortham believes the most beneficial aspect of being a member of Cline Shale Alliance is the networking. With so many different groups and organizations involved in the alliance — including city managers, economic development representatives, chamber of commerce officials, consulting firms, contractors, suppliers, to name a few — there are so many different views.
“If somebody wants to get more involved, and let’s say they’re not even from the region, they have value of being members so they can network,” Wortham says. “They can be introduced to elected officials or hotel developers or landowners or whoever they need.”
Becker especially likes the fact that he’s able to build relationships through the organization.
“I’m a big relationship person to begin with,” Becker says. “I’m not selling my community. I’m making relationships with people that if it works for them and it works for us, then it’s a good partnership. If not, it’s probably a good thing that we don’t come together. I think the opportunity to meet folks in the industry and then kind of build from there is beneficial.”
During the explosion of opportunities in the Cline Shale in 2012, Cline Shale Alliance was doing all it could to keep everyone in the region informed. Offering seminars, leadership meetings and luncheons became a common occurrence.
These days, with the price of oil down, the Cline Shale is less active. The organization still offers 10 major conferences per year that will key on hot topics, as well as luncheons.
“It’s great information and they also bring in speakers for their different luncheons and different events,” Becker says. “To be able to bring in a speaker that talks about a particular subject that wouldn’t come to every town just makes it that much easier to get people there.”
Becker has had the privilege of speaking at alliance luncheons in the past. He’s been able to share the experiences — good or bad — he’s had in Sweetwater in the hopes of helping other communities.
“I think that’s one of the things we’ve enjoyed out in West Texas is that we’re not all fighting just for ourselves, but we’re fighting to make a better West Texas,” Becker says. “If we can help another community learn from a mistake that we made, all the better.”
THE NEXT WAVE
As everyone in the Cline Shale region waits for the next wave to hit, there’s plenty to accomplish. During the hot time in 2012, the area couldn’t keep up with demand, whether it was building more hotels or infrastructure needs.
“We want to use this slower time to think it through and figure out what everybody’s plan is,” Wortham says. “Especially the communities, if they need to upgrade the hospitals, hotels and restaurants, whatever it is and move forward on those things.”