I’m in Odessa tonight for one of my last meetings of the UT System Employee Advisory Council (a representative from UTMB’s new employee council will replace me after this summer). It’s my first trip to West Texas, where UT Permian Basin is serving as our host. This is desert country, land of the biggest jackrabbits I’ve ever seen (our Galveston coyotes would like them), prarrie dogs, and burrowing owls. The UTPB campus is big, open and attractive, home to a replica of Stonehenge and a presidential museum, among other things. We heard from the UTPB president, Dr. David Watts. Although UTPB is the smallest of the UT components, its star is rising—the university has seen a growth of 50% in the past six years. There’s been a corresponding economic boom in the region tied to high oil prices; the Permian Basin holds 70% of the oil reserves in Texas, and everywhere you look there’s a “help wanted” sign.
I was caught a little off guard when I turned on the weather channel this morning and they were predicting snow; that doesn’t happen much in Galveston. I looked at the skimpy windbreaker hanging in the hotel closet, and thought this might not have been the best trip and time to have really ”packed light.”
Two things I heard on the benefits and compensation front will be good news to employees. The first centers around work being done to continue to encourage and make it easy for UT employees to save for their retirement with optional plans. The plans offer choices for every need and budget, the dollars are pre-tax and I’m going to be doing some investigation myself. If you are interested, I learned about a new resource at www.utsystem.edu/benefits/retirement.
The second bit of good news is that it looks like a good year for benefits, with no rate increases anticipated in our medical plan premiums for the coming plan year. Hoo-ra. Now I can buy more of that Texas oil for my car, and now that I know how nice the folks are in Odessa, I might not feel as bad about it.