Edwards maps Basin’s destiny
The Permian Basin has a stupendous future, but decisive leadership is needed now to see that it unfolds in the best way possible, says oilman D. Kirk Edwards.
Recently named “Outstanding Citizen of the Year” by the Odessa Chamber of Commerce, the 59-year-old Odessa native said Midland is besting his hometown with the necessary planning and preparation.
“We’re perfectly positioned between the two largest deposits of oil in the world and are blessed to have this energy renaissance happening in Odessa and Midland,” he said. “It’s not a boom. This technology will keep oil coming out of the ground for decades.
“The productivity of one well is now four or five times what it was in 2014 and in 10 years there is no telling what technological changes will happen.”
Edwards said Odessa should hold a summit like the Feb. 11 “Priority Midland” conference at Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center, where retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal and economist Ray Perryman said teambuilding is crucial to deal with housing, roads and transportation, workforce training, arts, sports and other concerns of the next 20 years and beyond.
“The Ector County Courthouse is a dilapidated structure in the middle of town that should have been replaced decades ago,” Edwards said. “It should be easy for us to go build a new facility and not keep patching it up. It’s the same with roads and the 35-percent dropout rate in the Ector County Independent School District.
“We need to get away from not spending money for the sake of not spending money and address the future. We have a lot of smart people in this town and we can figure it out.”
He said state legislators should take $300 to $400 million from Texas’ $12-billion Rainy Day Fund to bolster transportation and educators should study El Paso schools, where only 15 percent of students drop out.
Edwards said ECISD has 2,800 students in the ninth grade, 2,200 in the 10th, 1,960 in the 11th and 1,500 in the 12th. “There are no more kids graduating from Permian High School now than there were when I graduated in 1977,” he said.
Finishing PHS at age 17, Edwards was an all-district barefooted placekicker for the Panthers and earned a chemical engineering degree at the University of Texas after unsuccessfully walking onto the football teams at SMU and UT, where he suited up for one game. He would have gone to Texas A&M if not for the daunting presence of All-American kicker Tony Franklin.
He gained confidence from football after learning to kick in a side yard at his 17th Street home and going out for the Panthers in the spring of his junior year. “I was always tiny and a year or two behind everybody,” he said.
Edwards says his personality and values were shaped by his stature as a youth, 5 foot 10 and 135 pounds, and by his late grandparents and parents Betty and Bill, who started with the El Paso Products natural gas company as a ditchdigger and became company president. Edwards has two daughters and a sister. His two older brothers are deceased.
“I was quiet and conservative and was taught to be in check and try to get along. I enjoy my friends and want to be a good example for my daughters.”
He was an engineer for Texaco, founded Odessa Exploration and was with Key Energy as executive vice president and a board member during the period when Key grew from 600 employees to 10,000.
Edwards established MacLondon Royalty Co., formed Las Colinas Energy Partners, sold its assets, including 9,000 oil wells, and in 2014 established the Panhandle oil company Latigo Petroleum. He helped develop the Vista La Paz, Vista Del Norte and Tres Vista housing subdivisions.
Edwards was a director and chairman of the El Paso branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas from 2005-11 and was named last summer to the University Lands Advisory Board, managing 2.1 million acres in 19 West Texas counties for the Permanent University Fund.
Asked how he has, unlike many oilmen and companies, dodged catastrophe in the series of busts the Basin has endured in the past four decades, he said, “We’ve had four or five ups and downs since I started in 1981 and the one thing I’ve learned is that when things look really good, they will be bad within two or three years.
“Saudi Arabia can swing the price any way they want to go by increasing or decreasing their production like they did last year. The main thing is not to be in debt like the publicly traded companies, which have a tremendous amount of debt and are over-leveraged.
“I stay away from debt at any cost. Slow times are great to pick up more assets, although you have to wait for the price of properties to come down because everybody has to get used to it.”
The former city councilman worked on the University of Texas Permian Basin Development Board to bring Division 2 football to the school and sponsored its $38-million D. (for “Dennis”) Kirk Edwards Family Human Performance Center, which will open in late 2020. Permian’s indoor practice facility is named for his dad.
Chagrined by negative campaigning against State Rep. Brooks Landgraf of Odessa and Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo, he wrote an Odessa American guest column in October 2017 criticizing the Austin-based Empower Texans and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, saying those groups were “funded by the same Midland money guys and several board members of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.”
Explaining Feb. 18 that such activities work against the cooperation Odessa and Midland need, he said, “I don’t like the tone of the politics that go on here locally and in West Texas, the state and nationwide with Republicans going after other Republicans.
“We have incredible elected officials who look after our town, but we have other people and organizations coming in to attack our sitting representative and senator that have nothing to do with our community. I felt that was wrong and somebody needed to stand up against it. Brooks (Landgraf) didn’t even have an opponent, but they wanted to demean and weaken him. That was very mean of them to do.
“It makes no sense to have that kind of thing going on in our Republican Party today. You ought to put your name in front instead of hiding behind an organization. It’s shady.
“I want to leave Odessa and the state and nation better than I found them,” said Edwards, who lost a 2004 runoff to Seliger for the 31st Senatorial District seat. “It’s hard to move the needle nationally, but I can definitely make an impact locally and in the state, working through the Permian Basin Petroleum Association to affect energy legislation.”
He is a former PBPA president who serves on Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s energy advisory committee. His favorite hobbies are playing golf, scuba diving, particularly at the island of Cozumel off Mexico’s eastern coast, and skiing and fly-fishing in Colorado.
Homebuilder Billy Bassett said Edwards “has his finger on the pulse of the oil and gas industry and has a great vision for its direction.
“It has a lot to do with experience,” Bassett said, noting that Edwards for many years has managed the energy assets of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “Kirk has been watching the industry all his life. What really impresses me is his enthusiasm and love for Odessa and the Basin. UTPB wouldn’t have gotten football without him.
“When you make a lot of money, don’t move out. Stay here where you made it. After his divorce, he worked to make sure he stayed involved in his daughters’ lives and he still does today. He and Lori have both been very good to respect each other’s commitment to the kids.”
Banker Mara Barham said Edwards “is a homegrown Odessan who loves this town and is appreciative of every blessing it has provided to him.
“Kirk honors that in trying to pay it forward to our community, not just financially but with his time, commitment and influence to make it a better place than he found it,” Barham said. “Odessa has provided him with a successful and rewarding career and he feels strongly that we are all required to give back.
“He remains humble and appreciative of all that has come his way. He is just as willing to have a conversation with you or me as he is with Gov. Abbott.”
Dr. Jimmy Goates, a dentist and former councilman, said Edwards “likes to be involved in a multitude of areas so he can learn more about different things.
“Kirk has a very inquisitive mind,” Goates said. “I think he’s motivated by a desire to help in a way that some people just can’t do.”
Looking ahead 50 years, Edwards predicted that UTPB “will have a great football team, beating Division 1 schools, and Odessa and Midland will become a conglomeration of communities with growth exponentially happening and diversification into other fields.
“We’ve made the investment in our hospital infrastructure and are perfectly set up for growth,” he said. “We need to address the public school system. As they said at Priority Midland, ‘Check your ego at the door.’”