Employees at The Tailgate, an entertainment venue in Midland, Texas.
Alcynna Lloyd/ Insider
Midland’s booming oil and energy sector has brought thousands of millennials to the West Texas city.
Insider spoke with five residents to understand how their presence has transformed Midland.
They said the influx of homebuyers has strained the housing market and schools, but there are perks.
Midland, a nearly five-hour drive west of the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex, is one of the few places in the US where millennials are dominating the real-estate market. According to researchers at the National Association of Realtors, more than half of the city’s homeowners are between the ages of 22 and 40, as of 2021.
With a bit of skepticism, I visited the desert city of 176,914 residents this summer to investigate how this was even possible. I met with almost a dozen people, including local politicians, business owners, lifelong residents, and new homeowners.
I learned that Midland’s thriving oil and energy industry and its high-paying jobs are behind the city’s millennial homeownership success. I also discovered that the surge in millennial homebuyers has led to unintended consequences for the city, ranging from a housing shortage to the dire need for larger schools.
In their own words, here are five Midland residents on how millennials have brought about both positive and negative changes to the city.
Midland Mayor Lori Blong is a millennial herself.
The former teacher and Habitat for Humanity president grew up in the city and, like many of its residents, has ties to the oil industry. She and her husband are the co-owners of Octane Energy, a natural oil and gas company that launched in 2013.
As a native Midlander, Mayor Blong, who was born in the early 1980s, has had a front-row seat to Midland’s decades long population upsurge.
“I think that people move to Midland from other states largely because we have such a business-friendly economy,” Blong told me. “Midland specifically has a lot of well-paying jobs relative to the size of our community.”
Those lucrative jobs have not only elevated Midland’s population and homeownership rate, but have also spurred a demand for additional businesses to cater to the city’s residents.
“The young millennials that own homes are also raising families here,” she said. “As mayor, it’s a huge priority to find family-friendly opportunities for economic development.”
Yet, due to a significant segment of Midland’s population working in the oil and energy sector, the city has shortfalls in employment across other sectors such as banking, hospitality, and entertainment.
Blong said one of her objectives as mayor is to boost the city’s workforce. “We just don’t have enough people to do all the jobs that are needed here,” she said. “Whether in an oil field, or in retail, food, and beverage service, we have a great need for more workers.”
Ariel Herrera, a former Austin resident, came to Midland in 2018 to work in the oil and gas industry. She’s employed as a petroleum landman, which is someone who performs title work, as well as monitors contracts, transactions, and acquisitions.
In 2022, Herrera along with cofounder Sean Elphick, opened The Tailgate, a live-music venue whose clientele mostly consists of millennials.
In the past year, Herrera and Elphick have grown their business from a singular stage to a full-blown venue with a liquor license. In 2023, The Tailgate won $100,000 from Midland Development Corporation to support their business.
Herrera said that her business’ success partially stems from the need for more entertainment in Midland, especially as young people from different parts of the country relocate to the area.
“I would say there’s not a lot to do here, especially for someone like me who is from Austin,” Herrera told me. “However, there’s been a few new things popping up like bars, restaurants and concert venues.”
Courtesy of Jacobe Kendrick.
Jacobe Kendrick was born and raised in Midland. He has witnessed the city’s evolution from a well-known high-school football hub to its current status as a popular destination for millennials.
He told me that Midland’s boom in young residents has ushered in more diversity.
“The city is totally different than it used to be, especially for someone like my dad,” Kendrick told me. “He went to school in Midland when it was still segregated,” he said. “These days, there’s a lot more people and diversity in the city.
Being a real-estate agent, Kendrick has also observed the impact millennials have had on the real estate market.
“A large segment of my clients are millennials,” he said. “They either just got married, or they’re about to have kids, or they’re selling their first home to purchase another.”
According to Kendrick, the abundance of millennial homebuyers has led to an imbalance of supply and demand in Midland, which has reduced housing affordability.
In July 2021, the median listing price in Midland was just $329,000, however in 2023, that price has jumped to $388,500, according to data from Realtor.com.
“Midland is experiencing a housing shortage,” he said. “Six months’ supply is considered normal for inventory and we haven’t had more than three months of supply since I became a real-estate agent in 2015. It’s led to prices consistently rising in the area.”
Christine Foreman has lived in Midland her entire life.
The mother of three works as a public liaison with Region 18, an education service center that assists Texas school districts in improving student performance. She also serves on several educational boards, and is a longtime volunteer with the Parents and Teachers Association.
Foreman told me that Midland’s ongoing expansion has created more problems for its public schools. According to her, campuses are deteriorating, classrooms are full to capacity, and students lack fundamental resources such as access to WiFi.
In 2021, Foreman pulled her own daughter out of Midland High School.
“A couple of her school’s classrooms had zero connectivity to the internet,” Foreman told me. “She would waste an hour in a classroom not being able to do schoolwork, so we just let her stay virtual for the rest of the year.”
A May report from Midland ISD shows that over the past 10 years, the district’s enrollment has increased by more than 4,500 students, and is forecasted to grow by another 4,300 in the next decade.
That’s not shocking considering the city’s largest population demographic are children that are between the ages of zero and four years old, according to Mayor Blong, meaning the schools will be even more vital in the future.
In 2020, Michael Rohr and his wife moved to Midland from Houston. The religious youth leader with Young Life chose the area for its strong career opportunities and close-knit community.
He said that relocating to Midland has played a crucial role in his career achievements and that he has grown to love the city.
“The residents of Midland are the most humble and hardworking people I’ve ever seen,” he told me. “If you’re a young adult, I don’t think there is a better place to instill those qualities into somebody. It is a very competitive and entrepreneurial town.”
To keep these entrepreneurs satisfied, Rohr said the city is catering to them by creating more attractions, such as Centennial Park. The park, which was built in 2020 thanks to a community-wide effort, was inspired by Discovery Green in Houston and Klyde Warren Park in Dallas.
“Over the past couple of years, it’s been fun to see more development happening in the city,” he said. “Centennial Park is such a wonderful addition. If the city continues to develop, in the next five to 10 years, it’s just going to be more of a great place to live.”