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Arkansas Energy Forum Newsletter
September, 2012
In This Issue
Preston Scroggin,
Faulkner County Judge  
Featured Article

Preston Scroggin
Faulkner County Judge
"It's been phenomenal to watch the growth."

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Bobby Kennedy
"I do more work in a month for the gas companies than I did in 20 years for the public."

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Judge Preston Scroggin:  

Supporting the Industry that Fuels Our Economy 

 By Susan Dumas and Kate Chagnon 



Faulkner County Judge Preston Scroggin is committed to supporting the natural gas industry in Arkansas, and he's proud of how far the state has come. A fifth-generation cattle rancher, Judge Scroggin has more than an academic interest in how the drilling process affects the environment. It hits home for him.

            Judge Scroggin grew up in Conway and Faulkner Counties, where he now owns farms along with a farm in White County. His family has hailed from Conway County since 1852, so it's easy to see why Judge Scroggin is dedicated to helping these largely rural communities grow, develop and prosper. He has been an active leader in the state of Arkansas through his past service in the Arkansas House of Representatives and on the Vilonia City Council, in addition to his current position as Faulkner County Judge, which he has held since 2007.

            In these roles, Judge Scroggin has worked to help the natural gas industry gain footing in the areas he strives to support. "Faulkner County's done quite well, thanks to the gas industry. We were ranked 13th in the nation by CNN for job creation... and it's [due to] natural gas and the related industries that came with it," he says. "It's been phenomenal to watch the growth."

            Judge Scroggin first heard of the potential for natural gas work in Arkansas when leasing began in 2004. He noticed that leasing was concentrated in certain areas and paid close attention. Then he really became interested when the first well was drilled in Arkansas. Finally, his family leased their land in 2007. As a state legislator, a councilman, a county judge and a rancher, Judge Scroggin has been involved with the natural gas industry in many ways. And he's learned a lot from his experiences. "We all had growing pains; we all had to learn. There were times the industry was happy with us, and there were times they were mad at us! But like any good relationship, we persevered and got through it. We knew what the economic engine was, and we've got this thing figured out now," he explains.

            For Judge Scroggin, part of the learning process has included finding a way to address the concerns of environmentalists who have approached him. "I understand their viewpoint, but I know nothing is being done to soil the environment," he says. "Like I've always told them, I'm a farmer; I'm the ultimate environmentalist. But resources are put here to be used... and used wisely."



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Growing Business Keeps Quitman Workers Home... and Busy

By Susan Dumas and Kate Chagnon   


When Bobby Kennedy launched his own construction company in 1985 with "just a 'dozer," he had no reason to believe his career path would stray from his father's footsteps. His family had been in Quitman all his life and for generations back. "Used to, when I saw equipment come through Quitman, I knew whose equipment it was... it was either mine or my dad's." But that was before the gas industry came to town.

            Prior to 2006, Kennedy's business had experienced modest growth, from a humble start building ponds and chicken house pads with a single bulldozer to a company of about 10 folks completing projects for the state highway department. He and his crew were building a highway in Searcy when they first noticed gas company trucks coming through the area. This piqued Kennedy's interest, so he asked around back in Quitman. It's not hard to find out what's going on in a small town. Not long after, Kennedy had agreed to build his first pad for one of the companies, and his relationship with the industry grew from there.

            That first job took 30 days to complete, and Kennedy was able to get the work done with the equipment and manpower he had on hand. But that soon changed. Within his first two years of  working with the gas companies, his company grew from 10 to 100 employees, whom he says are all local people. He's able to pay them more, too. He also had to acquire many pieces of specialized equipment, like rock crushers, in order to keep up with the gas companies working in the area.

            Speaking of work in the area, Kennedy's relationship with the gas industry has done more than boost his number of hours to work, jobs to complete, and workers to employ. It's kept him close to home. Before, he had to travel all over the state to pick up "a day's work here, a day's work there," he says. He remembers staying in hotel rooms while his children were growing up and coming home only on weekends to see his family. Now, he's pleased to report that he hasn't had to stay in a hotel room since 2006. Quitman is located in Cleburne County, very close to Faulkner and Van Buren Counties. Kennedy is able to work in these counties instead of traveling the entire state.


KENNEDY continued below 

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            Of course, environmentalists aren't the only folks who have come to Judge Scroggin for more information about what natural gas companies have been doing and plan to do in Arkansas. All of his constituents have looked to him for answers to their questions and solutions to problems as they have cropped up. Judge Scroggin admits that there have been issues in the past with road conditions, but credits the gas companies for engaging in a process to address any road issues immediately as they are reported. 
            Along with handling any road concerns, Judge Scroggin also serves Faulkner County by working with gas companies to clear up landowner disputes. But one of his most important interactions as a community liaison to the natural gas industry involves the companies' response during storm season. He is quick to commend the industry for their commitment to community involvement, which can easily be seen when bad weather hits the area. "During the Vilonia tornadoes, one company had, I'll bet, 20 trucks and backhoes and probably 30 or 40 pick-up trucks that showed up to help during that disaster." This kind of corporate citizenship has resonated with local residents, and it makes a big difference to folks who once worried about how the industry's presence would affect their home towns. Judge Scroggin points to instances when gas companies have offered to help local fire departments or assist with county fairs as further evidence of why he feels that the natural gas industry has benefitted the rural and urban areas he serves.

            Just as gas companies have gone above and beyond to give back to the communities where they work, so has Judge Scroggin strived to support the industry to the best of his abilities in the political arena. "I make no bones about where I've sided with them, politically... This state would not be where it's at without this industry." Judge Scroggin references interactions with the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission and the Highway Commission when describing a few of the ways he has "gone to bat" for the natural gas industry in Arkansas. He also mentions a recently discussed severance tax, against which he and a group of judges he dubs "the Fayetteville Shale coalition" have taken a stand. "It was a ludicrous idea... we knew what it would do, not only to our counties but to the entire state... I think the legislators in Little Rock need to understand that the surplus they're getting is due in a large part to what we've been able to do up here."                    


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KENNEDY from above


          Not only has Kennedy's work with the industry kept him close to home, it's brought his grown daughters and their families back home, too. "Both my girls work for me now," Kennedy proudly explains. "When they went off to college, I thought, 'They'll have to get out and find a job, because I can't afford to have them working for me.' Well, guess what? They got to come home... we've got our whole family working right up here in the Fayetteville Shale. And I get to see them every day." While the Kennedy's daughters work in the office, their husbands are hard at work out in the field. Kennedy's wife has also left her position with the Greenbrier School District in order to help her family keep up with their busy schedules. And their baby grandson, Kennedy boasts, is now "running the office."

            Kennedy's contentment in his work with the gas industry seems to be well-deserved, as he has been able to provide companies with just the help they need to get their projects underway and successfully completed. "We've worked all over these counties all of our lives. My dad was in business in the '60s, and I got in the business in '85. We really know the ground in this area. We build highway jobs, so... it was really easy for us to convert to these jobs," Kennedy explains. He says that he and his crew pride themselves on never saying "no" to a company from day one. "Whatever they've asked us to do, we've been able to do it."

            It's plain to see that the growth of the gas industry in Quitman, Arkansas, has changed the lives of Bobby Kennedy, his family and his many employees. "I do more work in a month for the gas companies than I did in 20 years for the public. That's how much more volume there is. And that happens month after month after month." And that's as it should be.


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