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Refugio feels effects of Eagle Ford Shale boom

By JR Ortega
Aug. 25, 2013 at 3:25 a.m.
Updated Aug. 26, 2013 at 3:26 a.m.

Tractor-trailers constantly stream into the Refugio Valero convenience store for fuel while other big rigs temporarily park in the back section. Traffic along U.S. Highway 77 is one of the main routes leading into the Eagle Ford Shale.

REFUGIO - Driving right through the heart of Refugio, you might notice the heavier traffic and perhaps more construction than usual.

While the growth is not as large as some counties are experiencing as the result of the direct effects of Eagle Ford Shale, Refugio is having a small boom of its own - one that has not happened in years, said Lenny Anzaldua, city councilman.

Because of the growth, the city will conduct a job fair Thursday to let residents know about the available jobs.

"Things are finally rolling in the right direction," said Anzaldua as he drove down U.S. Highway 77, or Alamo Street, which cuts right through town.

The biggest growth has been seen in the expansion of several of Refugio's oil service companies.

The city is also waiting for the development of a Sonic Drive-In, a housing development and a nearly 15-acre truck stop, which was expected in 2011 but was delayed.

The growth is in the numbers, said Victor Garza, executive director of the Refugio County Community Development Foundation.

Since 2011, the city has seen a gradual steady increase in sales tax revenue. The 2011 total hit $920,800, a nearly $200,000 gain from the year before.

About $587,768 was reported as of August, and with four months to go, Garza hopes to break the million-dollar mark by the end of the year.

"We saw a huge growth," said Garza, who took on his new job several months ago. "It's sort of leveling back off again."

Not only is the sales tax revenue growing, but the population is also increasing, though slowly, Garza said.

Refugio's unemployment rate in 2012 was an all-time annual low of 4.6 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

With the slow influx of population and businesses, the city is now looking at creating more housing, which starts with a new development at the intersection of Houston Street and state Highway 183, Anzaldua said.

Anzaldua, who grew up in Refugio, is excited to see the city on the rise again.

"We're growing. You see all sorts of things popping up, and it's a good thing," he said.

Supreme Services, an oil supply company on O'Brien Road at the edge of Refugio, has upgraded its facility in the year they've been in Refugio, said Paul Labat, district manager.

Supreme Services expanded to Refugio because the location and the site needed minimal work, Labat said. The company also has a shop in Alice.

"It's the way we found it, and it was ready to go," he said.

Since moving to Refugio, Labat has noticed an increase in traffic but does not know if that is attributed solely to Eagle Ford.

The company, which will be at the job fair, is always hiring both experienced and inexperienced employees, Labat said.

The combination of a growing population, sales tax revenue and jobs all spell good things for Refugio, Garza said.

"We're willing to grow in whatever way we can," he said.



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