The recent announcement Halliburton Oilfiled Services was shuttering its Kilgore operations and laying off more than 200 employees was a heavy blow, felt in the hearts and homes of generations of local families.
The facility, which had operated in Kilgore for decades, was a familiar sign; almost a landmark to visitors entering Kilgore on Hwy. 259.
Its absence, and the absence of its workers, will surely be felt for a long time to come.
“It will not be the same in Kilgore not seeing the red Halliburton overalls everywhere around town,” Kilgore Mayor Ronnie Spradlin said Monday.
“They were in Kilgore for 20 years when I was born.”
Much more than missing the familiar trucks and uniforms, many local families will feel the loss in their pockets and their finances.
“Especially tragic is the loss of jobs for so many families. Our entire community mourns at your loss and our prayers are with you,” Spradlin said to the laid-off workers and their families.
Kilgore Economic Development Corporation, responsible for helping the Kilgore business community thrive, echoed Spradlin’s comments.
“Halliburton’s business decision to close the Kilgore facility is certainly a loss for Kilgore and the people who worked there,” said Jana Russell, KEDC Assistant Director & Marketing Mgr.
However, while the community reels at the blow to its workers, its families and its economy, some hope still springs.
Kilgore has weathered such storms before and, even in the midst of a sagging economy and deflated oil prices related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Kilgoreites look towards a future recovery, Russell said.
“The people of Kilgore wisely voted to establish KEDC in 1990. Since then, its primary goal has been diversifying our economy to shore up our job base to make us more resilient in case of energy downturns like this. Synergy Park is almost full with the fruits of their labor, with hundreds of non- energy related jobs (which make) us less vulnerable in this crash.”
The mayor also pointed to past crashes and recovery efforts as proof of Kilgore’s resilience.
“We have seen many downturns since the big one of the early 80s. Since then, energy companies have been getting quicker and faster to cut and respond. We always hope the crash will be short-lived, but always need to be prepared in case it is long-term.
At KEDC, Russell acknowledged the serious impact of the Halliburton decision but, like the mayor, noted Kilgore’s diverse economy as a shield against sudden setbacks.
“Halliburton’s impact will be difficult to replace, but Kilgore has developed resiliency through industry diversification efforts, including Orgill’s recent expansion and the location of Wagner Tuning, a German-based high-end automotive parts manufacturer. The Wagner Tuning project is nearing completion,” Russell said.
She also pointed to help available for those dealing with the sudden massive layoffs.
“East Texas Workforce Solutions offers a rapid response program for those impacted by mass layoffs that includes preparation for a job search as well as job referrals and hiring events. Those needing assistance should contact ETWS at 844-ETWORKS. In addition, TWC lists more than 2,500 jobs currently available in the region,” she said.
Russell noted Kilgore’s rich boomtown history, pointing to the city’s leadership and diversified economy as key points in recovery from downturns. Businesses and industries in other fields less prone to sudden fluctuations help strengthen the city’s economic backbone, she said.
“Through progressive leadership, Kilgore has successfully weathered the cyclical nature of the oil and gas industry over the years. Kilgore Economic Development Corp. was created to help Kilgore withstand the up-and-down nature of the oil and gas industry, and has responded through the years by nurturing a cohesive and successful economic strategy. Now, most KEDC agreements are with companies in other industries,” she said.
“Kilgore’s Boomtown history is still rich and the people of Kilgore have successfully added new chapters to that history through time.”