By Mitch Borden
The U.S. census is still a year away, but city officials and industry leaders in the Permian Basin are trying to plan how they’ll count all the people who have flocked to the region in the last decade because of the shale revolution.
Texas is set to receive around $60 billion dollars in federal funding because of the census and that money will be divided among counties. Each receiving an amount based on how many people live there. So, every person counts.
For the Permian Basin, this is a problem because it’s filled with transient oil field workers. So community leaders in Midland and Odessa are strategizing how to find as many of these part-time residents as possible.
Cathy Lacy is a regional director for the census bureau. At a meeting held at Odessa College, she spoke about the importance of the census and the challenges facing West Texas.
“I think we need to make the invisible visible,” said Lacy. “In this area, you’ve had so much growth in some parts up to 18 to 26 percent.”
During the meeting, it became clear public and private partnerships will be key in tracking down workers spread out between houses, trailer parks, and man camps in Midland and Ector Counties. Even though region poses specialized challenges, Lacy remarked she’d never seen a place focus so much on preparation for a census before.
That’s because there are millions of dollars on the line.
“Since the last census, we have so much growth,” said Sharla Hotchkiss, a member of the Midland City Council. “We have had so much infrastructure need the growth of needs of infrastructure in the community and we want those dollars right here in the Permian Basin.”
Hotchkiss said the hope is an accurate count will provide the funds needed to help fix problems facing Midland and Odessa.