I recently returned from a trip to Midland, Texas which is commonly known as West Texas. The area consists of two towns, Midland and Odessa, located just 20 miles apart. The population of each town is 125,000 for a combined total of around 250,000 people. It’s a boom town, growing at an unreal pace. The unemployment rate is a mere 3 percent which is the lowest in the country. Locals say that the 3 percent unemployment rate is really just the folks who don’t want to work.
Housing is almost impossible to find. There is no vacancy at apartments and the campgrounds are filled to capacity. A few hours away in Austin, an Extended Stay hotel is $150.00 per week and in Midland the rate is $500.00 per week.
There are plenty of pick-up trucks because it’s Texas but also lots of Mercedes, Escalades and even a Ferrari and Lamborghini or two. People are well dressed and very well mannered, wearing obviously expensive clothing and sporting expensive jewelry.
Midland is a pretty city with a new hospital and clean streets and sidewalks. The surrounding area is brown and ugly with no hills and very few trees. It is desert, that’s for sure. One family just purchased a new house and are so excited because there is a pecan tree in the front yard, one of two trees on the property. West Texas is still in a drought so water rationing is the norm. There isn’t enough water to water a lawn. Some residents have taken to drilling their own water wells just for the purpose of watering their lawns. These homes display prominent signs so their neighbors don’t turn them in for violating water rationing laws.
The reason for this boom is oil. Lots and lots of oil. You can smell it in the air. Pumps are going round the clock and oil is being pumped and hauled as quick as it will come out of the ground. While everyone knows someone who works in the oilfields, the oil industry is not the only industry profiting.
Restaurants are busy. There is a normal two hour wait for people who dare to venture out on the weekend. Food is plentiful and not cheap. The problem for the food industry is getting enough good help. Restaurants are struggling to find enough employees. McDonald’s is paying $14.00 per hour while the 7/11 convenience store is offering a $1,500 bonus to anyone who stays for six months. Several popular restaurants came to town to expand but never even opened their doors because they could not find enough employees to train and open.
In my next blog I’ll talk about the cuisine in West Texas. I had some of the finest southwest food around.