Midland is not only a model of economic growth amid a boom, but also is an example of what's needed for long-term, sustained growth, the chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission said Thursday.
Andres Alcantar, a native West Texan, said with the continued growth in the energy sector, the Permian Basin boasts one of the best economies in the country.
"Midland, Midland-Odessa, is leading the way," Alcantar said, speaking after he addressed a crowd of about 30 people at the morning session of the Governor's Small Business Forum held at the Midland Center.
At 4.2 percent in July, the most recent numbers available, Midland had the lowest unemployment rate in the state. Odessa followed at a close second with a rate of 4.9 percent in July, according to data from the commission.
Alcantar said the bulk of that success has to do with the oil and gas industry. However, he said that when the energy industry thrives for as many consecutive months as it has in West Texas, other industries and small businesses also benefit.
"The GDP expansion over the last decade here has been very impressive," he said.
Historically, energy-based economies like Midland's have suffered from the cyclical nature of oil and gas prices, Alcantar said. However, he said for those on the outside, it appears Midland is doing what it needs to plan for long-term growth.
Whether through pushing for development of infrastructure to meet needs or recruiting non-energy businesses, such as Midland Development Corp. did with XCOR Aerospace, Alcantar said Tall City leaders are looking ahead.
"Research and development and innovation -- that is critical," he said.
An economy like Midland's does have challenges, Alcantar said, which is part of why long-term planning is so important.
"These things -- it's important to have not only short-term solutions, but also a long-term solution," he said.
Remelle Farrar, project director at Permian Basin Workforce Commission, said helping businesses to solve boom-time challenges is part of what the commission is charged to do.
"In the Permian Basin, in business, it seems to me that we're juggling every day," she said.
Many businesses, particularly those not in the oil industry, report having difficulty finding qualified employees. Companies that are able to hire people often say they struggle to find them affordable housing options and, if they solve that issue they then have to grapple with how to retain that employee.
The workforce commission can be a tool in meeting those challenges, she said.
Whether helping to recruit employees, matching job seekers with specific companies or helping businesses find grants to train employees, the commission is in place to assist businesses, she said.
Alcantar said in addition to planning for growth and diversifying, the commission advocates education at various levels as a way to help meet the need for a larger pool of available employees.
Everything from workforce programs that train truck drivers and welders to higher education programs need to be advocated for if the state is going to meet the future need for qualified employees, he said.
"We stand ready to help the region grow," Alcantar said.
The forum was hosted by the Midland Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Office of the Governor and the Economic Development and Tourism Division of the Texas Workforce Commission. The Midland College Business and Economic Development Center, Midland Development Corp. and Odessa Hispanic Chamber of Commerce also were involved, said Rachel Stone, CEO and president of the Midland Hispanic Chamber.
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