SAN ANTONIO -

The once sleepy towns surrounding the Eagle Ford Shale have awakened to the reality that their small rural communities currently don't have the capacity to handle the growth that's come from the shale's economic impact.

"Eagle Ford Shale …is a game changer,” said Gil Gonzalez, with UTSA’s Rural Business Program. "(Rural communities are) seeing stress and feeling overwhelmed with infrastructure, housing, education, social capacity.”

On Friday, officials from Dimmit, Uvalde, and Zavala counties met with consultants from the UTSA-Shell Oil Municipal capacity Building Program.

The program’s goal is to promote socioeconomic growth by helping rural cities prepare for current challenges and future needs and by identifying potential opportunities as a result of the changes resulting from Eagle Ford Shale’s presence in the area.

“Growth can happen in ways that's not particularly good for your city. Nobody wants to have their city grow with 'man camps' necessarily. They might want to have single-family housing,” said Francine Romero, associate dean of the UTSA College of Public Policy.

The training session provided an “administrative toolbox” to help officials like Alejandro Zepeda of Crystal City change the way his city approaches government, public relations, and urban planning.

“The biggest challenge is (growth) going to last seven years, 10 years, 20, 30,” Zepeda said. “What’s going to happen after the fact? What are we going to be left over with?”

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