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Area Newspapers
Economic Development


Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Unemployment shows increase for county, city

From Staff and Wire Reports

Reeves County's unemployment rate climbed in October, while employment within the county plunged by over 400 from September, according to figures released today by the Texas Workforce Commission.

Unemployment within the county increased by six-tenths of a percent, from 10.4 to 11 percent last month. That came as the total number of jobs within the county fell from 5,009 to 4,571, while the number of people in the workforce dropped from 5,593 to 5,136, the TWC said.

The workforce and job numbers are the lowest in years in Reeves County, as the loss of several major businesses has cut the county's population by over 20 percent in the past 13 years. Part of the October decline is also due to the end of seasonal jobs related to the area's agriculture industry.

Last year, the number of jobs dropped by 370 from September to October, but the total number of jobs at that time was 500 higher than reported by the TWC last month, while the county's workforce has fallen by 1,300 people in the past year. Two years ago, the number of workers and the number of jobs within the county fell by over 800 between September and October, when the local labor force stood at 6,295 workers and the jobless rate in October of 2001 was 5.6 percent.

Unemployment in October of 2002 stood at 19.8 percent in the wake of the Anchor Foods plant closing, which cost 700 workers their jobs. The plant has since reopened as TransPecos Foods, but with much lower staffing levels than before the shutdown.

The unemployment rate was high, and the workforce numbers lower, for the Town of Pecos City in October. The TWC said unemployment in the city last month rose from 11.9 to 12.5 percent. The city had 4,033 people in its workforce and 506 unemployed, compared with 4,388 workers and 523 without jobs in September.

In October of 2003, unemployment was at 22.2 percent in Pecos, with 1,144 people without jobs out of a workforce of 5,145 people.

While local unemployment increased, the jobless rates for other area counties declined from September to October, according to the TWC's numbers. Ector County's jobless rate fell from 6.9 to 6.2 percent, and Midland County, with the area's largest workforce, saw its unemployment fall from 4.4 to 4 percent. Both counties' workforces were virtually unchanged between September and October.

For the area counties with similar populations as Reeves County, Andrews' unemployment rate fell from 5.5 to 4.8 percent last month, Brewster County fell from 2.7 to 2.4 percent, Pecos County's rate held steady at 4.7 percent, Ward County's rate dropped from 7.7 to 7.4 percent, and Winkler County's jobless rate fell from 8.1 to 7.2 percent.

The total number of jobs and the number of workers increased in Andrews and Brewster counties, while the workforce totals fell from September to October in the other counties, according to the TWC.

Statewide, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for Texas dropped to 6.5 percent for October from a revised 6.6 percent in September.

"The Texas labor market continues to show signs of growth," said commission chairwoman Diane Rath. "Our state is on the right track, and Texas employers are proving resilient following the recent economic slowdown."

Company profits are improving and businesses are beginning to invest in new equipment, said Ron Lehman, the commissioner representing employers.

Still, the decline in the unemployment rate was possible only because the September jobless rate, first estimated at 6.5 percent, was revised upward.

The following are the preliminary October unemployment rates and September rates in parentheses for Texas metropolitan areas. The figures are not seasonally adjusted.

Bryan-College Station 2.1 (2.3); San Angelo 3.6 (3.8); Amarillo 3.6 (4.0); Abilene 3.9 (4.2); Lubbock 3.0 (3.4); Victoria 4.7 (5.2); Wichita Falls 4.5 (5.2); Tyler 4.3 (4.6); Waco 4.7 (5.1); Austin-San Marcos 5.0 (5.6); Killeen-Temple 5.2 (5.5);

San Antonio 5.1 (5.5); Odessa-Midland 5.1 (5.6); Fort Worth-Arlington 5.7 (6.3); Longview-Marshall 5.8 (6.3); Corpus Christi 5.9 (6.5); Houston 6.3 (6.9); Dallas 6.4 (7.0); Laredo 6.3 (6.7); Sherman-Denison 7.0 (7.4); Galveston-Texas City 7.8 (8.6);

Brazoria 8.1 (8.9); El Paso 8.9 (9.8); Beaumont-Port Arthur 8.8 (9.5); Brownsville-Harlingen 10.1 (10.3); McAllen-Edinburg-Mission 12.0 (13.2); Texarkana 4.8 (5.3).

Air Force offers update on area B-1 flights

Staff Writer

PECOS, Thurs., Nov. 20, 2003 -- Air Force officials explained the importance of the B-1 training missions often seen in the skies locally, during a meeting at the Odessa College Technical Training Center yesterday.

RBTI, or Realistic Bomber Training Initiative, was brought to the Reeves County area in the spring of 2001. The program utilizes an electronic scoring system facility located south of town; this allows Air Force pilots to train on low-level flying missions here in the Trans-Pecos and Big Bend regions, said Col. Jeffery Beene, 7th Operations Group Commander.

Pilots flying B-1 bombing sorties in Operation Iraqi Freedom benefited from the low-level terrain that they saw in the Trans-Pecos region. The training missions flown here provided them with familiarity on the type of terrain that the crews would experience in their missions over Iraq, Beene said.

The RBTI includes a 700 nautical mile long training route that starts near Sierra Blanca and runs all the way to the high altitude training area located near Snyder, including a loop that encircles Pecos.

In total, the air space designated for the training missions along this route is 25,000 square miles. The bombers fly along a predetermined path and simulate the deployment of munitions at specific locations.

The simulation program, known as "Lone Star," includes the scoring site 17 miles southwest of Pecos, along with the high altitude scoring site west of Snyder. Both sites act in concert with emitter sites placed at random locations along the bombing path. The scoring sites evaluate the accuracy of the pilots as they pass over the remote emitting sites, according to Beene.

Air Force officials estimate the economic benefit to Pecos-Reeves County at $1.5 million per year, and the savings to the government at over $30 million per year.

The income to the area stems from the salaries of those employees who man the station, the local purchasing of supplies, and the servicing of the facilities' vehicles at local businesses.

In addition, the savings to the government comes from the decrease in mileage that the bombers must cross in order to reach an electronic range. Previously pilots would have to fly to Utah or Montana to utilize a similar facility.

"The RBTI allows B-1 crews to be 40 minutes from leaving Dyess to entering the training ground, and 15 minutes from exit of the route till arrival back at the base," Beene said at the presentation.

"The simulated bombing runs near here and in the Rio Grande section of the route allow the pilots to get low-level training in the mountains," he added, "and with the electronic equipment we have here, we can simulate multiple types of threats, truly giving our pilots a much more realistic view of how combat mission are."

Beene then elaborated on the three most common questions people have over the program.

Low-level flights from Dyess AFB, along with Holloman AFB near Alamogordo, N.M., have been conducted over the area for years, leading to complaints from area ranchers about the high-speed jets startling livestock and shaking buildings as they passed overhead.

The Air Force and area ranchers, landowners and residents of Southern Reeves County worked out an agreement on the flight path and the number of flights per day through U.S. Congressman Henry Bonilla's office in 2001, and other complaints about the flights lessened both in the Trans-Pecos and South Plains areas following the terrorist attack on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

As to the Air Force's choice of location, Beene said that Pecos was a prime spot for its remoteness, low population density, its proximity to Dyess AFB and the variable terrain that can encounter throughout the training route.

He added that people are also curious as to where the bombers take-off and land. "All of our planes come out of and return to Dyess, but in an emergency a plane could land in Odessa if it had to."

And finally Beene said that people also wanted to know what they should do in case of an accident. "Like any emergency situation, we ask people to contact their local law enforcement agency."

The only major accident involving a B-1 training flight in the area occurred in December 1992, when a bomber crashed into the side of a mountain south of Valentine, killing all four crewmen on board.

Land and other requirements for the RTBI program was originally located and facilitated by the Pecos Economic Development Corporation. The PEDC provided temporary office space for the transition manager setting up the site, found and brokered the land deal for the site, aided facility employees in locating suitable housing for them and their families, and helped in the location of emitter sites around the region, according to Gari Ward, PEDC President.

The electronic bombing range is utilized by both B-1 crews from Dyess and B-52 crews out of Barksdale AFB, located in Shreveport, only the B-52 do not fly at the lower altitudes that the B-1's do.

Former 143rd DA Upchurch

announces new bid for post

Staff Writer

PECOS, Thurs., Nov. 20, 2003 -- A Monahans attorney has announced his candidacy for the office of 143rd Judicial District Attorney, a position he last held 13 years ago.

Hal Upchurch, who served as D.A. for this district from 1987 until 1990, will seek a new four-year term representing the 143rd District in next spring's Democratic Primary election.

"There are a lot of reasons why I decided to run for District Attorney again," said Upchurch. "I think I can do a better job, that is presently being done."

Upchurch currently has his private practice in Monahans.

"For the past 18 years, I have practiced law extensively in Reeves County," said Upchurch, who has been a lawyer for the past 30 years.

Upchurch moved to southeast Texas after leaving his post as 143rd District Attorney, but said that he decided to move back to West Texas a few years later because of the climate. "I was really sick when I was in Houston, because of the weather," said Upchurch. "I was also tired of the big city," he said.

"Seeking this office will require that I campaign in Loving, Reeves and Ward Counties, for this reason, it will be a physical impossibility for me to go door to door to personally ask for your support," said Upchurch. "Nonetheless, I will be spending a substantial amount of time in Reeves County during the campaign."

Pecos attorney Randy Reynolds has held the District Attorney's position for the past seven years. Reynolds has not yet announced whether or not he will seek a third four-year term in 2004.

Plate sale to benefit Sadler scheduled

PECOS, Thurs., Nov. 20, 2003 -- An Enchilada Plate Sale will be held Friday beginning at 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., at the Santa Rosa Church Hall.

Plates will consist of red enchiladas, beans, rice and salad. Desserts will be for sale as well. A slice of cake or pie will be $1 and other whole cakes and pies will be available for different prices.

All proceeds will go towards medical bills for Sylvia Sadler, a long-time and very popular kindergarten teacher at Pecos Kindergarten. Sadler is the daughter of educators Sidney and Billie Sadler. Billie Sadler is currently the president of the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board.


PECOS, Thurs., Nov. 20, 2003 -- High Wednesday 75. Low this morning 35. Forecast for tonight: Clear. Lows near 45. Southwest winds 10 to 15 mph. Friday: Sunny. Highs 80 to 85. Southwest winds 15 to 20 mph. Friday night: Clear. Lows in the mid 40s. South winds 10 to 15 mph. Saturday: Sunny. Highs in the mid 70s to the lower 80s. Southwest winds 15 to 25 mph. Saturday night: Clear. Lows in the lower to mid 40s. Sunday: Sunny: Windy: Colder. Highs near 50. Sunday night: Clear. Lows in the mid 20s to the lower 30s.


Nell Harrison

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