Two years ago, organizers of the Permian Basin International Oil Show faced a rare challenge: exhibitors dropping out during a bust ahead of a fall show that typically draws tens of thousands of people and boosts the local economy.
By the time the show began in October 2016, planners managed to fill all of the spaces at the Ector County Coliseum, but attendance fell short of the masses that recent events had drawn as the industry reeled following the collapse of crude oil prices in 2014.
Those days are over.
This year’s show, from Oct. 16 through Oct. 18, is already sold out to 735 exhibitors. Hotel rooms are already scarce. And the theme chosen by the oil show’s board: “We’re back. Faster. Fitter. More Focused.”
It’s a nod to the way Permian Basin oil companies responded to the crash nearly four years ago: Drilling quicker and pumping more oil while cutting costs.
“The oil industry is back,” said Stephen Castle, president of this year’s oil show. “And the Permian Basin is the place to be. It’s the hottest deal in the world.”
Oil show officials could see double the attendance of the last show in 2016, Castle said. That was about 35,000 people. “This is the working man’s oil show,” Castle said. “And what happens when prices are high, they are back working in the oil patch.” The Permian Basin is now home to more than half of the rigs drilling for oil in the United States. On Friday, the regional rig count climbed to 463. That’s more than double the amount of rigs drilling in the Permian Basin during the 2016 show.
Hiring in the area is also surging with oil companies competing to find workers.
“We’ve got a whole lot more people out here in the industry that will be interested in coming to the show,” said Tony Fry, executive director of the oil show.
Lodging is expected to be scarce, and Fry said organizers have already talked to exhibitors planning to stay two hours away. In 2016, Odessa hoteliers were struggling to stay half full and the oil show brought a welcome boost. But today room rates again can run higher than $400 during the busiest weeknights.
Some of Odessa’s larger hotels are already completely booked for the oil show, said Odessa Convention and Visitor’s Bureau director Monica Tschauner in a phone interview from an event with hotel operators Friday.
“That’s not even a rumbling, that’s a fact: We are booked in Odessa for hotel rooms the week of the oil show,” Tschauner said.
She said that bodes well for other businesses in Odessa such as restaurants and venues that also benefit from the thousands who come to town to attend the show.
Ever since the show began in 1940, it’s served as a biennial symbol of Odessa’s economy, while bringing an economic boon of its own.
Brady-based rig manufacturer Loadcraft Industries is a staple of the oil show and attended in 2016.
“It’s going to be a lot bigger show this year than in the past because of all the activity but also because of all the positivity going around,” said Steve Lara, director of marketing for the company. “We’ve got a stronger economy. The price of oil is going up, and it’s going gangbusters over there.”
Lara said his company will keep the same amount of space at the coliseum for this show and still plans to showcase a pulling unit, along with new products. The show has been good to them, Lara said, adding that Loadcraft workers found one of their largest customers, based in South America, at a Permian Basin oil show.
“The people who go there are the people who are using and buying our equipment directly,” Lara said.