Shortage of Workers For Oil and Gas Boom - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

12/04/06 - Nacogdoches

Shortage of Workers For Oil and Gas Boom

by Donna McCollum

The oil and gas industry is needing help.   The boom, going on right now, led to "speed interviewing" in Houston this weekend. Interviews went no longer than 15 minutes to try and fill thousands of vacant engineering jobs. Here in East Texas, the exploration boom is creating other kinds of job opportunities.

On the  third floor of a Nacogdoches office building, a think tank of landmen are at work, scouring the land and its maps for the best sites to explore for oil and gas. "I learned some more about our prospect area," said one landman to another as they reviewed a map brightened by colors that indicated secured deals.

Landmen are concentrated in the boom areas, but statewide, there aren't very many of them.   Landman and attorney Jeff Deason said, "There are only about 3,000 landmen in the state of Texas, and that number is shrinking due to the oil bust that occurred some 20 years ago. A lot of people got out of the business at that point, and unfortunately, the ranks weren't replenished."

You'll find the older landmen who never left. You'll also find the younger ones. Jeff's son, Ben, is putting off college to make good money on land deals. At only age 23, he's pretty good at it.

"They're holding out, but that's ok," he said to a co-worker as they discussed upcoming negotiations. He then explained, "What we're doing is creating small partnerships in the sense with the land and mineral owners. We are the tool for them to decide their mineral interests, and they need us as much as we need them."

Ben was doing so well, his dad followed him. The senior Deason did this kind of work before, but after the last bust, entered criminal defense law.  Deason grinned, "I've always had a little oil in my blood, so when the boom occurred, I got back in it again."

But this time, his son is by his side. They sit together going over addendums and checking the fine print on mineral lease agreements.

Ben said of his dad, "He's very wise in the ways of law and other business that I'm not, being young, but I've got a lot more drive then he does. He's the brain behind some of the inner workings. I'm the guy whose willing to go out there and make it happen." 

The elder Deason doesn't lose his authority. "The old man always call the shots, but really and truly, Ben is very well thought of by members of the crew."

The Deasons recommend others take the opportunity if they like competition. Landmen are secretive and protect their prospects closely in hopes of closing a deal.

The Deasons have a contract with Samson, just one of many exploration companies in East Texas. Brokerage firms provide the landmen. Women also do the job, but they want to be referred to as landmen too.   They've set up offices in towns throughout the region.

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