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Welcome to the ‘Man Camps’ of West Texas

Article here. Excerpt:

'There’s not much to look at except dirt, mesquite, and sagebrush around the 10 acres of flat, almost treeless land near Goldsmith, Texas, where Aries Residence Suites runs a housing complex used by itinerant oil workers. Three years ago, all 188 rooms were as empty as the landscape—a testament to crude’s tumble from more than $100 a barrel to $30. Today, prices are up around $70 and almost every Aries bed is occupied, just as at many other “man camps” throughout West Texas.

The Permian Basin, a more than 75,000-square-mile expanse of sedimentary rock that’s one of the world’s biggest oil plays, is drawing billions of dollars in new investment. Companies are scrambling to find people to do everything from operating drilling rigs to driving trucks. Wages have reached such lofty levels that even unskilled laborers can earn $100,000 a year. Many of the jobs are in remote areas with no houses, schools, or supermarkets, so free room and board are essential perks for workers, most of whom elect to leave their families at home.

David Penny, a 57-year-old pump operator who’s originally from Zimbabwe, stays at the Goldsmith camp during his two-week shifts. “It’s a great place to work, but a terrible place to live,” he says, citing the heat, dust, and dearth of grocery stores and restaurants among the negatives. His wife, who lives 370 miles away in Dallas, “would never come out here, and I don’t blame her one bit,” says Penny over lunch at the on-site cafeteria.

Thousands of workers now reside in dormitory-like compounds in West Texas and eastern New Mexico, and more are on the way. Aries, which has 11 locations spread out over North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Texas, is expanding Goldsmith, which is near capacity, to 400 beds and will soon break ground on a 500-bed facility in Orla, Texas, a town with new oilfield activity but a population of less than 300.'

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