Other business owners are taking a more tentative approach. Benny Vine says business at Vine Brothers Quality Meats in Centreville hasn’t increased enough to merit an expansion.
“I don’t know if I want to add on to the restaurant because it may not happen,” Vine said.
Rhett Anderson was already planning a new house when he signed a deal to lease his mineral rights and receive royalties from Encana. He said the money means he hasn’t cut any corners on the 7,500-square-foot dream house.
“I could build this home the way the dream was,” Anderson said.
Kirk Barrell, whose company assembles lease tracts and sells them, estimates oil companies have leased as much as 1.7 million acres of Tuscaloosa Marine Shale land in Louisiana and Mississippi, spending more than $300 million.
And for those who may have sold their mineral rights before the current uptick in exploration, there are other ways to make money. For example, landowners can make tens of thousands of dollars leasing their ponds to hold the water used in fracturing.
“Most folks will find a way to benefit some,” McGehee said.
There are drawbacks, too. For example, drilling trucks are tearing up the thin ribbon of asphalt on many county roads.
“The biggest change I’ve seen is the amount of traffic, the number of 18-wheelers that are using the street,” said Charles Jones, an 80-year-old having coffee with friends at Liberty Drug Store, where oil has begun to rival college football as a conversation topic.
If the LSU estimates prove true, the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale would be among the very largest fields in the United States.