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Energizing Fort Worth charities

Lighting a gas stove

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Bob Moon: While many industries are feeling the pinch of the economic slowdown, the energy sector isn't one of them. Consider Fort Worth-based XTO Energy. The oil and natural gas company is expected to post profits of more than a dollar a share today.

It's salad days for other Forth Worth energy companies too -- so much so that nonprofits in the area aren't having the same problems raising money as charities elsewhere. Kate Archer Kent has more.


Kate Archer Kent: In the heart of Fort Worth, energy company money is funding the construction of an enormous steel skeleton. This isn't another headquarters for big oil. It's the Fort Worth museum of Science and History, getting a $75 million makeover.

The construction activity above ground mirrors what's going on a mile-and-a-half below. The same firms that are helping refurbish the museum are drilling into the Barnett Shale, one of the nation's largest natural gas fields.

Carl Hamm: I think there's a sense of optimism.

Carl Hamm's the museum's chief fundraiser:

Hamm: When they feel more secure, they might be more willing to support things that they might not otherwise.

Energy companies are pumping billions of dollars into Fort Worth's economy every year. Hamm's museum is just one of dozens of foundations and cultural organizations that have benefited., such as Bass Performance Hall. It marked its tenth anniversary with a free concert.

Paul Beard is the Hall's managing director. He says he'd never be able to put on a free concert. But Chesapeake energy paid for the whole thing.

Paul Beard: Chesapeake was very happy with this partnership because it obviously was good for their visibility and for their image.

Thanks to the Barnett Shale, drillers and nonprofits in the Fort Worth area are in great shape financially. But geologists say gas deposits will stop yielding in 20 to 50 years.

Ron Wright is acting mayor of Arlington, a neighboring city. He says he's planning accordingly.

Ron Wright: Let's do what smart people do when they get a windfall, and that is you spend some of it and then invest the rest.

Arlington's endowment fund will grow to $50 million in several years. Wright says it'll keep pumping out a nice return long after the natural gas is gone.

I'm Kate Archer Kent for Marketplace.

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