More people sleep in and around this west Texas oil town each night than call the place their home, but just how many is anyone’s guess.
A steady flow of job seekers fills the city’s hotel rooms and mobile-home parks outside of town, and wears a sheen onto the highway circling downtown. As in past boomtowns, new residents are grabbing available housing, lowering the for-sale inventory to two months. Meanwhile, more than 3,600 new hotel rooms, apartment units, and residential lots will soon dot the flat, arid landscape. The influx has reeled in the nation’s largest home builder, as well as a regional player that is throwing up entry-level houses on streets with names like “Gehrig Avenue” and “Nolan Ryan Drive.”
Welcome to Midland, home of the latest Texas oil boom. While some are calling this boom the “big one,” others recall past busts. But a trio of building material dealers who’ve been through more than one boom-and-bust cycle says there’s more than one way to manage roller-coaster growth.
With a population of 113,931 in 2011, Midland, Texas, earned the title of second-wealthiest metro in the nation, based on per-capita income. And, with 4.6% more residents in 2012 than in 2011, the small city was also the fastest-growing.
While its tight-knit dealer community swears by both ends of the bell curve, the latest round of growth brings to their yards a near-unprecedented rise in residential construction. Development currently on the boards will soak up the next three years of population growth, says Steve Thorpe, with Midland’s development services department.
For nearly a century, Midland’s been at the heart of the region’s oil and gas industry. This time, the boom is driven by relatively new drilling technology—hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” which blasts water, chemicals, and sand into shale formations beneath the 250-mile-long-by-300-mile-wide Permian Basin geographic zone to extract nearly 14% of the country’s annual oil production.
“We’re in the promised land,” says Russell Jones, CEO of Framing Square Lumber, located off the state route bridging white-collar Midland and its blue-collar sister, Odessa. “This is the land of milk and honey, if you just have a half-assed clue about business principles and ethics.”