TEMPLE, TX — His name adorns the football stadium at Baylor University; he used to own the Houston Astros; and now he is playing a part in reopening businesses across the state amid COVID-19.
Drayton McLane Jr. is no stranger to the spotlight or financial success. He built a behemoth of a holding company and personal fortune by navigating economic ups and downs, but what he's seeing now is something different.
"I think we got a triple whammy. The coronavirus health issue, the economy disappearing in such a harmful way, and then all of a sudden the biggest industry in Texas is the oil industry,” McLane said on Tuesday.
The Bell County billionaire is on Gov. Greg Abbott's strike force that will guide policy and make recommendations to kick start the Texas economy now that business are expected to slowly reopen in the next few weeks.
“This is the biggest single problem, in my lifetime, I’ve ever seen,” says McLane.
On Monday, the price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate plunged to below zero. Restaurants, bars, and most retail shops have now been closed for a month, or are operating in a way that makes turning a profit near impossible.
McLane says sooner or later, the key to getting the Texas economy moving again will be easing restrictions while keeping a close eye on COVID-19 to prevent a "resurgence."
“People here in TX and the US, we function by moving around [and] our association with our friends, family, our business. That’s a big part of our life,” he said. “This is totally unprecedented in Central Texas. We’re going to have to address the issues. The first is healthcare and the second is put our economy back together again.”
McLane says he's talking to other task force members daily. They plan to meet with the governor on Thursday to provide some first-step recommendations and suggestions.
On Tuesday, Abbott encouraged Texans that are out of work to look at local Workforce Solutions offices for possible openings.
“Believe it or not, we have close to half a million jobs that are available as we speak right now," said Abbott.
Early next week, the governor is expect to issue new executive orders that could impact business closings, and shelter-in-place orders across the state.