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Barnett Contractors Announce Layoffs After Chesapeake Cuts Back

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – One day after Chesapeake Energy announced to cut back on its drilling operations, gas prices bounced back from 10 year lows.

The company said it cut production in response to lower prices, and that its decision wouldn't result in layoffs.

Industry employees called CBS 11 Tuesday, however, to report job cuts have already started inside other companies that depend on the Barnett Shale.

Land brokers said companies were quickly cutting ties with independent contractors who work to secure leases for operators like Chesapeake.

Most of the land companies Chesapeake employs had no comment or referred all questions to the natural gas giant.

Companies like Cimmaron Field Services said they will follow the industry's lead, shifting resources to the large Utica Shale in Ohio or to the Permian Basin, and that it's not likely that every contractor will make the move.

At Purple Land Management, faced with a new 11 percent loss in work, company heads were trying to stay focused on the work still there.

"To get caught up in that is really counter-productive to our business," said Jesse Hejny.

Headquartered in the shadow of TCU's Amon G Carter stadium, where its founders played football, Purple exists in Fort Worth solely because of the Barnett, providing 120 jobs here and in Ohio.

Less than two years old, its founders said they are dedicated to staying in the Barnett, often referring to their profession as one that is patriotic.

"Every time one of those rigs comes up, that's a little less, a little less dependence on that stuff over in the Middle East," Hejny said.

The company said it's positioned to not take a big hit from a single operator's business decision.

Hejny and partner Bryan Cortney said instead of using six to seven contractors when negotiating a land deal for a company, they will try to do it with one or two, avoiding the need to cut back in tight times.

The pair also calls themselves educators on natural gas, and said the cutback is an opportunity for the region to recognize the value of its resource.

"It is a wake-up call," said Bryan Cortney. "We shouldn't take for granted the Barnett Shale and the resources we have out there because you never know what the future holds."

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