Oil bust is top east texas business story of the year business news-journal.com gas city indiana post office

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In a report Thursday, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas said the U.S. has lost about 70,000 oil and gas jobs since October 2014, a 14.5 percent drop in the 14 months after the domestic shale drilling boom that boosted the state and regional economies.

But the sacrifice of oil producers, oil field workers and more than 1,200 drilling rigs still hasn’t stalled U.S. crude production enough to shrink the glut that has sent oil prices below $40 a barrel. That, the Fed said, means the new year will bring more layoffs and closures.

In East Texas, the cuts began early in 2015, with oil field service companies large and small announcing layoffs and shutdowns. By the end of the year, few area cities were unscathed as Baker Hughes Inc. and others had closed facilities in Kilgore, Tyler and Longview.

U.S. Steel’s Lone Star Tubular Operations, which provides pipe and tubing for use in the energy industry, put more than 1,000 workers at its plant north of Longview on notice of layoff throughout the year, and GE shut down the East Texas manufacturing operations it acquired from pumping unit maker Lufkin Industries in that city.

Good Shepherd President and CEO Steve Altmiller said the move is intended to allow Good Shepherd Medical Center and its affiliates in Marshall, Kilgore and elsewhere to continue providing community-based health care. Good Shepherd is the city’s largest employer and longest-serving hospital.

In late November, Altmiller said eight health systems had submitted proposals for consideration, and the board had whittled that list to five. Representatives of those five were making visits to East Texas this month. The process is on track for completion by late July, Altmiller said, and the system’s turnaround plan shows it’s on track to return to profitability by the end of 2016. 3. Northeast Longview boom

In November, voters gave their OK to a developer’s plan for Hinsley Crossing, a retail development that will replace the existing Hinsley Park at Hawkins Parkway and Eastman Road. The development would be anchored by a Kroger Marketplace supermarket and is to include a sporting goods store and other retail and restaurant tenants.

Residential development continued on the extension of Hawkins Parkway east of Eastman Road, while the extension of Fourth Street north of Hawkins Parkway already has attracted restaurant and hotel development. This month, Tyler-based Brookshire Grocery Co. purchased about eight acres at the north end of the extension for an as-yet undisclosed development. 4. Eco-devo overhaul

The replacement by Mayor Andy Mack of eight members of the board of the Longview Economic Development Corp. signaled a new direction for the entity responsible for growing business and jobs in Longview. The new mayor also moved the city’s convention and visitors bureau back to City Hall from the Longview Chamber of Commerce, which had run it for several years.

Leading Edge Medical Associates, the independent group of doctors who staff Good Shepherd Medical Center emergency rooms, is building a freestanding ER on Loop 281, next door to Golden Corral, and the doctors’ group is working to open locations in other cities as well.

The 281 Lodging Group, meanwhile, is converting a former Holiday Inn Express on Tuttle Circle into a full-service Holiday Inn with conference space. The company recently announced plans for a Courtyard Marriott on the north side of the Hawkins Parkway extension between U.S. 259 and Tryon Road, including some conference space and other amenities.

The last hotel that offered such services, a former Holiday Inn off Interstate 20 at Estes Parkway, aged, lost its flag, passed from owner to owner and eventually closed, becoming an eyesore at one of the main entrances to the city. The Longview Economic Development Corp. purchased it and tore it down with plans to lure a business to the location. 7. Iconic Johnny Cace’s closes

East Texas Regional Airport, which provides commercial air service to Gregg County and the region, commemorated completion of a two-year expansion and renovation project and announced new flight schedules and hopes for expanded services coming soon.

Downtown saw comings and goings throughout the year, with Kilgore College announcing plans for an ambitious renovation and expansion project at its downtown campus, a popular bar and grill closing, a children’s discovery museum opening and other moves.

Willy G’s, a popular spot for lunch and evening gatherings on Tyler Street, closed after five and a half years, with its owner citing a slowdown in business. Earlier this month, Laurie’s Growler and Craft was announced to fill the spot in the new year.

A freestanding emergency room and a variety of restaurants are under construction on formerly undeveloped and residential property on the West Loop, while redevelopment at the Longview Mall is bringing new restaurants and other businesses to the mall.