MIDLAND-ODESSA, TX (KWES) - As crude prices continue fluctuating, local officials and business owners are recognizing the start of a "slow but sure" economic recovery in the Permian Basin.
"Things are looking up," said Midland Mayor Jerry Morales. "There's a lot of opportunity in West Texas. There's new opportunity."
Restaurants, shops and other businesses unrelated to oil are opening at an increased rate throughout the city, he observed.
The mayor's own venture, Mulberry Cafe, opened six weeks ago at 2101 W Wadley Ave and generated more business in its first month than he initially expected.
"When we purchased this restaurant, we knew it was in a downturn," Morales said. "But it was a great time to be able to open up. We felt like we could get staff, we felt like we could train people... and lo and behold, it's been busier than ever."
However, he cautioned people against overestimating short-lived success and reading too much into short-term trends in oil prices.
Economy recovery following the latest oil downturn could take up to a year in West Texas, the mayor explained.
"We all need to be very careful... with our spending," said Morales. "The city is not looking at taking on any new major projects. We're still finishing up ones that we started."
Meanwhile, several development projects are currently underway in Midland, including a shopping plaza in the 1400 block of N Loop 250, adjacent to a newly opened H-E-B supermarket.
Businesses opening within the coming months at the plaza include a blow dry bar and Potbelly Sandwich Shop, a Chicago-based company with more than 300 locations nationwide.
"We started this process [of expanding to West Texas] over a year ago, when the economy didn't look even the way it does now," said Sonja Gutierrez, the general manager and operating partner of Midland's first Potbelly Sandwich Shop.
She said economic uncertainty and fluctuating oil prices did not deter her from moving forward with her business plans.
"We have to keep going despite what's happening," said Gutierrez.