Small economies are changing
When oil and gas money leaves town.
In the mid-’90s, armed with my trusty Dodge truck and just enough gas money, I navigated the streets of our one-horse town. Rick’s, the local gas joint, turned into our social hub—a pit stop for us ’90s kids engaging in the timeless small-town pastime of cruising.
Friday and Saturday nights became a ritual, cruising from McDonald’s up north to Maple Lanes down south. When Walmart claimed its turf, our route stretched a bit. I can’t help but feel like an old-timer, reminiscing, “Ah, I remember when this was all cornfield.” But we’d watch the world go round and round our little town.
Today, my crew and I scattered, hunting for better gigs. Shoe’s commanding a sawmill in Pennsylvania, Droopy’s holding it down in Georgia, Pelt’s claiming his spot in Tennessee, Art’s the rock in our hometown, and here I am, blogging from a job in Maryland, though I’m constantly on the move.
They and I went to places with jobs waiting. But here’s the flip side. We’re not longer tied between the job there and living there. Our work, home and social lives can be anywhere.
We stay connected through phones; I can FaceTime my Grandson in Alaska and call Mom without waiting till 9 PM. We’re not tied down. But as we inherit mineral rights to our family farms, a nagging question lingers: where’s the money headed?
Small town leaders often mix up surface and mineral rights. You can separate them. The potential millions from oil and gas might not do a lick of good for the town where the drill rig set up shop. Looking at those revenue reports, the money is downright staggering.
Right now, most of it hangs around, buttering up the banks, the assets of those who stay close to the wells. My Small Town Bank just expanded, claiming top regional honors from Newsweek. But what really grates my cheese is how that cash could mosey on out of small towns. Nobody seems to understand this change.
In my years of wandering, I stumbled upon a woman who up and moved to the fancy Greenbrier resort in West Virginia with her fat monthly revenue checks. She figured out she could split the surface from the minerals and take that goldmine wherever she pleased.
Now, in this post-work-from-home world, it’s clear as glass that skilled folks ain’t shackled to where they work. COVID taught the world that your job can tag along wherever you call home, and that can be anywhere.
But here’s the rub: you can work from anywhere.
So, let me weave this yarn between remote work at a solid gig and those oil and gas checks that roll in.
Those who’ve mastered the art of remote work can roll up camp and set up shop anywhere. They haul their paycheck with ’em. So, a town that used to rake in cash from a big office building might find that gravy train has changed tracks. Likewise, those oil and gas checks might just hitch a ride elsewhere.
We’re not cruising from one end of town to another anymore. Exclusively Spending our money locally.
In this ever-changing scene, it’s more crucial than ever to make our towns damn appealing. We gotta keep those with the greenbacks hooked and ensure our communities thrive in this new era where flexibility is the name of the game.
Howdy! Grab your favorite coffee and join me as we journey through the Marcellus shale. I’m your guru’ for all things oil and gas. Expect some hearty chuckles as we wonder the ins and outs of the Appalachian Basin, because let’s face it, the new energy revolution is – full of surprises.
James A. Asbury