Pecos: Planning for ‘quality of place’
This report was originally published in the April edition of Business View Magazine. View the full digital edition here.
There are many communities spread throughout the magnificent State of Texas, each offering a distinct character. What few communities do have is an economic framework that is quickly growing and planned development projects helping to focus its anticipated growth.
For Pecos, Texas, charm is on the menu and it has the infrastructure plans to facilitate its valued residents. Well known for its cantaloupe farming, and ranching, for having hosted the world’s first rodeo (on July 4, 1883), and for being a regional commercial center for oil and gas production, Pecos, with a burgeoning population of 12,600 is a West Texas city with many claims on its identity.
Situated in the Pecos River Valley at the eastern edge of the Chihuahuan Desert, it originated in 1881 as a station on the Texas and Pacific Railway, and as a cow town at the intersection of old cattle and wagon trails. In 2012, Pecos City appeared on the Forbes 400 as the second-fastest growing small town in the United States and was named the most dynamic micropolitan area by the Walton Family Foundation for two consecutive years (2019-20).
Today, Pecos remains a booming and prosperous community, serving a sizable wholesale and retail trade area as the largest town between the sibling cities of Midland-Odessa to the east and El Paso to the west. Its handsomely historic streetscapes continue to trace the forms of American folklore alongside the many man-made landmarks of the Old West.
“We’ve been asked if we’re still out there riding horses and the answer is ‘no’, we do have cars,” quips City Manager Charles Lino. “We’re in the heart of the Delaware Basin, which happens to be the biggest oil reserve in the country and possibly in the world. The oil and gas industry flourishes out here. We’re still known for cantaloupes, although most of them are grown south of the city these days. But basically, the city has gone through times of boom and bust because it’s been highly dependent upon the oil industry.”
The Delaware Basin is the larger of the two major ‘lobes’ of the Permian (or, West Texas) Basin, where oil and gas have been extracted since the mid-1920s. As a result, the Permian has played a significant role in the economic development of the state of Texas for the better part of the 20th century.
“From Chevron to Permian Resources, if you can name an oil and gas company, you can find them in Reeves County,” offers Ken Winkles, Executive Director of the Pecos 4B Economic Development Corporation (EDC).
There are currently 66 active producers in Reeves County, ranking it third in the state for barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) produced.
“That is a very stable industry right now, it’s fantastic,” Lino continues. “Moving forward, our focus has to shift to growth that creates recreational and other amenities for the betterment of this community. We have to make sure that we can provide everything our citizens need, right here, in town. We’re a hub and we want to continue to expand on that.”
“The old saying ‘quality of life’ is actually quality of place, and Pecos has definitely, within the last decade, succeeded in that aspect,” Winkles insists.
“Over the last six years, the Pecos EDC has been moving toward creating more housing opportunities. A smaller 16-unit subdivision of mid- to high-level homes was added back in 2017, and in 2020-21 we progressed onto Meadowbrook, which is a 72-home site, 54 of which already have homes on them and the remainder are under contract.,” Winkles describes.
“The next big project my successor will take on is a 40-acre site south of town, near to where the county’s new splash park is going to be. There’s no water, no sewer, no street, no anything out there at the moment, so we’re looking at somewhere between a $6-15M price tag. That 40 acres, over a period of time, will hold another 200 homes for Pecos.”
The city already boasts several parks that represent new amenities for that part of town. “We’ve done major upgrades to our parks system over the last several years,” offers Lino. “We have a beautiful memorial called Veterans Park (1006 W. Kerr St.) that highlights a WW2- era plane and a fantastic facility. We also built a state-of-the-art outdoor baseball complex, Cyclone Ballparks, that hosts five artificial turf fields, NCAA Regulation Size, and we’re getting ready to begin Phase 2 construction scheduled to be completed around October 2024.”
The county, to its credit, expanded its public golf course from nine holes to 18 over the last couple of years, in addition to building an $18M recreation center that opened its doors in 2021. “There are a lot of things happening in Pecos, Texas right now,” Winkles says.
“When I started here in 2016, we’d just brought in Dickey’s Barbecue Pit and a Kentucky Fried Chicken. We helped Sonic move from one side of the town to the other and we acquired a Domino’s and a Burger King. Then, in 2020, we hit a home run—like most smaller West Texas cities, we were known as a one-grocery store town, but that year we convinced United Supermarkets to set up shop,” Winkles reflects.
“They bought land on Highway 285 and brought in a brand new grocery store, which added about another 200 jobs to our workforce here. So, that was a great feather in the EDC’s hat. We’re always active in trying to get companies to take a look at Pecos and our latest acquisition is Starbucks. They’re a top-tier franchise. Once you land a few of those, then other people start looking at you. We’ve had a good eight-year run of adding businesses to Pecos, especially in the retail food division,” he continues.
For families with school-aged kids in the area, the city features the impressive Pecos-Barstow-Toyah Independent School District (PBTID), a premier provider of education for over 2,600 students across 5 campuses in West Texas. What began in 1883 as a small schoolhouse located along the Pecos River has become a fully operating district for PK-12 education.
“Schools play a big role, especially in small communities like Pecos,” notes Brent Jaco, Superintendent of Schools for the PBTISD.
“We’ve worked hard over the last couple of years to really rebuild our school system and support the community along the way.”
“We’ve worked hard over the last couple of years to really rebuild our school system and support the community along the way. You know just as Ken is working to bring in businesses and develop the economic prowess of our city, we have to do the same as a school district. We’ve been fortunate enough to pass a bond and start to rebuild our aging facilities. As we’re restoring those, we’re creating state-of-the-art learning environments for our students, our families, and the community as a whole. We think that’s going to play a big role in the economic growth of our city in the long haul.”
While working on the construction side, the PBTISD has also improved the academic rigor of its campuses and increased its active accountability standard with the state of Texas.
“We’re providing great career technical education (CTE) opportunities for our students that meet the industry needs of our local community,’ Jaco says.
“We’re very excited about what’s taking place. We’re also in the process of getting a brand new CTE center approved so that our students can get industry-based certifications, to prepare them for life after high school. As that begins to take off, I’m sure we’ll find creative ways of partnering with the city. I know that PBTISD will be one of the first school districts in Texas to offer an oil and gas trade opportunity. We’re building a lab for that as part of this new CTE facility, we’ll have vet tech, agricultural, culinary, auto mechanics, and construction. That last one fits along with our kids being able to transition into building the very homes that the city has worked so hard on seeing developed.”
On the infrastructure front, the city has two monumental projects coming down the pipeline this year, including a $52M wastewater treatment plant upgrade and $ 42 M worth of water wells.
“These will address the anticipated growth for our area for the next 30 to 50 years,” Lino announces. “Water is a scarce commodity out in West Texas, but we’ve secured some space south of town where we’re going to drill those new wells. We’ve got the preliminary results back and it’s going to be higher-quality water than we’ve even got now It’ll be a gravity-fed project with a redundant pump system, so if one of them goes down, we’re not going to be made an example of like other cities.”
While access to affordable and adequate housing has become an issue for communities of all sizes, Pecos City is targeting those needs with appropriate programs and support.
“We have something unique out here—we have multiple man camps, which are housing trailer units that several companies own to shelter tens of thousands of oil and gas field people on a temporary basis,” Lino explains.
“They come and work their shifts, 7-on, 7-off, or 40-on, 40-off, and they’re through our town regularly. But I can tell you that housing is an issue. The city has had to go out and buy housing. The school district just built an apartment complex and is in the process of getting it done to house teachers. That’s where Ken has been vital in getting these subdivisions done and sold. In just a short period of time, 72 houses were bought and sold, and that’s why we’re working on these other 200 south of town. Because we do need housing. And at the end of the day, Pecos shares the same problems as everybody else.