The Barnett Shale in North Texas has done a lot more than build natural gas reserves — it has spurred the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas to the largest population increase of any metropolitan area in the nation, according to a study.

The report followed one by the U.S. Census Bureau earlier this month that named the Dallas/Fort Worth region as the fastest growing in the country.

“The Barnett Shale is energizing the North Texas economy with activity that is far exceeding expectations, even while the rest of the nation remains mired in an economic slump,” said noted Texas economist Ray Perryman of The Perryman Group. Perryman led the research, which was commissioned by the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. He found that in 2007, activity in the Barnett created 83,823 permanent jobs and pumped more than $8.2 billion into the local economy, a net gain of more than 50% over the previous year.

Previous estimates of the future impact of the Barnett Shale have proven to be far below the actual effect of exploration, drilling and production on regional business activity, Perryman said.

“Last year, we projected that the economic impact of the Barnett Shale would increase by a rate of about 20% per year,” he said. “But it was absolutely astounding to see that, in reality, it expanded by more than 50% in 2007. Although the national economy is definitely slowing, activity in the Barnett Shale is insulating Fort Worth and the surrounding region and serving as a catalyst for ongoing economic vitality.”

The study found that the Barnett is having a multiplier effect on nearly all segments of the regional economy:

Perryman’s report examined the economic impact of the Barnett Shale on the 18 Texas counties with the most drilling activity: Bosque, Clay, Cooke, Comanche, Denton, Eastland, Ellis, Erath, Hill, Hood, Jack, Johnson, Montague, Palo Pinto, Parker, Somervell, Tarrant and Wise. The Barnett Shale is a major economic generator in these areas, accounting for 8.1% of gross product, 7.8% of personal income and 8.9% of employment.

Six major energy companies, comprising 81% of total Barnett Shale production, responded to a seven-page questionnaire prepared by The Perryman Group as part of the study. The firms were asked to break down by counties the number of full-time employees, staffing needs, annual payroll, operating costs, current and future production levels, charitable contributions and the amount of state and local taxes paid.

The report, “Drilling for Dollars: An Assessment of the Ongoing and Expanding Economic Impact of Activity in the Barnett Shale on Fort Worth and the Surrounding Area” may be downloaded at

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