Tuesday, May 28, 2024 May 28, 2024
66° F Dallas, TX

Can Dallas Really Escape the Downside of Lower Oil Prices?

Energy investors, ranch owners, high-end retailers may start to see effects.

As Jason mentioned this morning, Mayor Rawlings apparently agrees with the conventional wisdom that plummeting oil prices aren’t all that worrisome for Dallas because we’re more diversified now, etc., etc. (Hey, that’s Houston’s problem.) But, the reality may be more sobering. Some of Big D’s leading business people—the ones who buy the Chanel handbags and the private jets and the weekend ranches and pony up tens of thousands of dollars for soup kitchens and inner-city education—made piles of dough off the shale boom, either directly or through investments. Now they’re either tightening their belts or at least starting to get jittery.

Today’s New York Times, for example, has a story about an investment fund that’s poised to snap up cheap Texas trophy ranches that nervous owners want to sell off quickly and quietly. (D CEO wrote about the firm back in 2013.) Kelcy Warren has watched his worth in Dallas-based Energy Transfer Equity drop by billions of dollars (yup, that’s a “b”). Late last year, Neiman Marcus slashed 150 Dallas jobs and reported its first decline in same-store sales in six years. One luxury Realtor says “scared” sellers are knocking millions off their asking prices for local mansions. And an adviser to top Dallas philanthropies reports “there’s lots of chatter” about oil’s impact on the local economy, “but no real impact, YET.” The capitalization’s his.

Scoff all you want at the concept of “trickle-down economics.” But restaurant servers and valet parkers and high-end retailers and people who raise money for charities don’t. Maybe the mayor and the tax collectors should be starting to get just a wee bit nervous, too.