Representative Linda Tyler
|"I could see the impact it was going to have on generations of families and the businesses that the industry and our people would need to support it."|
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|Howard & Lula Belle Froud|
"The drilling took the worry out of where the money was going to come from to pay for things. We've paid everything clear and free."
Representative Linda Tyler:
Committed to Keeping Arkansas's Promise in Play
By Susan Dumas and Amy Glover Bryant
Long before she retired as an executive with Acxiom Corporation, Linda Tyler knew that she wanted to spend her "retirement" serving the people of Arkansas in the Arkansas State Legislature.
In 2007 with plans for future public service in mind and as talk of the economic impact natural gas drilling might have on her county and her state gained momentum, Tyler and her husband set out to see for themselves what the Fayetteville Shale play was all about. Research and the development of knowledge is clearly an important part of who Tyler is and how she goes about making decisions not only for herself, but for the people and communities she represents.
"I'm a big believer in seeing, feeling, touching and smelling. I knew it was going to be important to our community and that I needed to see for myself. We spent an entire day following each stage of gas production," said Tyler. "It was a very full day and of course we had to visit Faulkner, Conway and Van Buren counties so that we could see the entire process."
Over the course of that day, Tyler and her husband were able to see wells being drilled, ponds prepared and liners being put in. At that time the issue of the tremendous noise generated by the drilling hadn't been addressed. "It was quite loud," said Tyler. "But it was also clear from our first experiences that the gas companies cared a great deal about our area, our environment and had every intent of being responsible members of our community. I was very impressed."
"I recall saying to my husband that evening that this is going to be one of the most significant economic impacts in our community that we will see in our lifetime. I could see the impact it was going to have on generations of families and the businesses that the industry and our people would need to support it."
Today, Representative Tyler is in her second term representing the people of District 45 and a candidate for the state senate for the newly formed District 35. She says the impact the Fayetteville Shale play has had on her constituents and her state surpassed her initial expectations.
When asked what concerns she has heard most from the people of her District during her second term and her candidacy for State Senate, she identifies an urgency to make sure the growth in Conway and Faulkner county was done in the right way, that job security is maintained and that salaries continue to remain stable. In her opinion, Faulkner County's growth has been well-planned and feels companies such as Southwest Energy have been outstanding community partners.
Sitting in the shadow of the newly constructed, LEED certified Arkansas headquarters of Southwest Energy in Conway, it is hard to argue this fact with the State Senate candidate.
But how did they do it?
TYLER continued below
Letting Love Be Their Only Debt
By Susan Dumas and Amy Glover Bryant
The roots of the Froud family in White County reach back eight generations. Today, Lula Belle and Howard Froud still live on the same land in Step Rock, Arkansas and raise cattle there just as Howard's ancestors did as early as 1846. It is obvious when you listen to the couple that they are deeply rooted in rural values, family, tradition and a love not only for their kin, but for their neighbor.
They also have a deep respect for the gas industry and what it has done for all of White County and don't regret a minute of the experience.
"About seven years ago a man named Cliff Gaynor, a diplomatic man and people person, knocked on my door and told me he wanted to lease my land for $25 per acre," explains Howard. A tough negotiator, Howard told Cliff that he wouldn't take less than $50 per acre as that is what he had received in the past. They parted ways agreeing to disagree.
It was the first the Frouds had heard of the new drilling interest in their area. During the following three weeks, Howard took it upon himself to "sweeten the deal" for the gas industry, talked to his neighbors and in three months had a 3,000 acre block put together over a major existing pipeline that was made up of not only the Froud's land, but that of many of their neighbors. Cliff was no doubt impressed and the company agreed to a lease of $50 per acre.
"Right away word spread and we started getting calls asking if we could help others around our community negotiate with the company," says Howard. Within time, the 3,000 acre block would become a 6,000 acre block and the gas company would not only pay $50 an acre for that land, but they also went back to landowners who had received $25 an acre and paid them the additional monies.
FROUDS continued below
TYLER from above
"One of the things we were able to do was show Southwest Energy how Conway would welcome them and find them a quality place for their employees to work and live," said Tyler. "We were able to show them that we were not only able to support them from a community perspective, but also that we already had the technological infrastructure they needed in place in our community. Conway Corporation and their fiber optic lines have been an important component in our ability to attract business to our community. Last but not least, we showed them the educational opportunities here for recruiting current and future employees. All of those things together were important in selecting Conway for their new headquarters."
It is clear in speaking with Tyler that she is immensely proud of Faulkner County's growth and the job development that the Fayetteville Shale has brought to her District. Eighty percent of Southwest Energy's employees in Arkansas are Arkansans. "Oftentimes I think there is a view that the growth of the natural gas industry in Arkansas is just making jobs for people from out of state but the truth is we are making a lot of jobs for the people of Arkansas. That fact is also a testament to the quality of workforce we have in Arkansas."
The sustainability and maintenance of that highly qualified workforce seems to be high on Representative Tyler's radar for the future. During our conversation, she pointed to specific programs being developed in the area of Career Education in Faulkner County - specifically in skill building programs such as those for welling.
She also points to the newly launched program at UCA called U-Teach that is also being offered at two other Arkansas universities. The program's goal is to enhance and augment the preparation of teachers in the STEM areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The program aims to prepare those teachers at a faster rate and get them more hands-on experience before sending them out on their own in to Arkansas's public school classrooms.
The program is mostly funded by private funds with some local fundraising and Tyler anticipates that like the influx of highly talented people who have entered or returned to our state with spouses employed in the natural gas industry, the students being educated as part of or a result of the U-Teach program will also bring outstanding talent to companies throughout Arkansas including Acxiom, Hewett Packard, three universities and a hospital all of which have large employee pools in Faulkner county.
"Ours is a very diverse economy that is important for us to continue to support," said Tyler. "During the 2013 general session it is important that we don't put regulations in place that impede the growth of the natural gas industry while at the same time making sure that we continue to work together to be environmentally responsible in protecting Arkansas's natural resources."
One of the issues that potentially could impede that growth is an increase in the severance tax. Tyler is very much against such an increase and employs traditional values when dealing with the issue.
"First of all, when you look at where we are in regard to other states we don't want to tax the gas industry more than other states. Secondly, [and perhaps more importantly to Tyler], years ago the industry, the Governor and the legislature sat down and entered in to an agreement. I believe in Arkansas when you sit down and look someone in the eye and shake their hand, you ought to live up to that. We made a promise to the gas industry in terms of how we would tax them and, in return, they made billions of dollars worth of investments in our state and our people. I don't believe we should go back on our word. A handshake in Arkansas still means something and always should."
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FROUDS from above
While the Frouds haven't spoken with Gaynor in at least three years, they are thankful for the time, effort and commitment he showed in researching properties. They even helped when he hit a road block on a piece of land owned at one time by Howard's great grandfather by giving him the names of some heirs. In the end, Gaynor was able to identify more than 54 heirs to the property in question.
With a chuckle Howard states that Gaynor worked night and day to help the community and was so good at research he uncovered 40 acres to which Howard did not own mineral rights.
"We were totally surprised when we found out that they were going to drill at least two of the first four wells in White County on our property," states Howard. "It was good for them and good for us."
"The messes they made, they would clean up," says Lula Belle. "And the roads are better today than they were before the drilling began."
While the drilling did cause some noise and a lot of people coming and going, including a seismographic station behind their home that was occupied for a month around the clock, the Frouds give thanks for all the blessings the gas industry has brought to White County.
"We know many people who are now employed by the gas industry, one of our restaurants had to expand and one of our stores added a restaurant to feed the many people who have come in to our area," says Howard. The Frouds also note that many retail businesses have benefited from the influx of workers who are looking to buy everything from clothing to barbed wire.
The couple describes Searcy and White County as a totally different place since the gas industry took an interest in it. The area has also seen a growth in the number of spaces where workers could rent out space for travel trailers, as well as the building of new hotels, motels, restaurants and homes.
"Anyone who sells anything in White County has benefited," says Howard.
How have the Frouds benefited?
Howard explains that "all the land we own is old family land that they bought from other family members and we've been paying on it our entire marriage. Within a year or so of meeting Cliff, we had it all paid for."
They are also thankful for the extra money that has helped to buy new tractors, cars and to help a granddaughter who is a struggling single mother of three.
"The drilling took the worry out of where the money was going to come from to pay for things. We've paid everything clear and free. All we owe anybody now is to love them. That's our debt."
Let love be your only debt! If you love others, you have done all that the Law demands. Romans 13:8
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