STEUBENVILLE - A Pennsylvania official advised area business leaders Monday to "be quick to react, but be conservative" as they find their niche in the oil and gas industry.
Washington County, Pa., Commissioner Harlan G. Shober Jr. said the industry values vendors who understand theirs is not a 9-to-5 kind of business and are prepared to respond. Yet at the same time, he said sudden changes in drilling patterns can wreak havoc and cautioned business owners against over-committing resources.
"You have to be quick to respond because someone else will be there" if you don't, he said. "So be quick to react, but be conservative."
OPPORTUNITIES AWAIT — Jim Ladlee of Penn State’s Marcellus Center of Research talked about some of the opportunities in the oil and gas industry supply chain at Monday’s “Benefiting from the Boom” seminar at Steubenville Country Club. Roughly 100 area business people took advantage of the opportunity, which was sponsored by the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce and Progress Alliance. -- Linda Harris
Shober was one of some 15 industry experts taking part in the day-long seminar "Benefiting from the Boom" at Steubenville Country Club. Sponsored by the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce and Progress Alliance, its focus was to help the business community "benefit from the boom."
Shober, a township supervisor prior to winning a seat on the Washington County Commission, told the roughly 100 business leaders in attendance that they need to "think beyond the gas impact."
"It's going to come, and it's going to come fast when it comes in," he said. "You want to prepare now, think about your business ... the (oil and gas) companies are here now."
Jim Ladlee from Penn State University's Marcellus Center of Research told the group that to understand how to get involved in the oil and gas business, you first "have to know where you fit."
"Figure out not what you do, but how you fit within the (industry)," he said, pointing out that "something as simple as porta-potties" can represent an enormous business opportunity.
Keynote speaker Tom Stewart, vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, said for the first time in decades "we've actually increased our ability to provide crude oil, dramatically increased our natural gas resource base."
"There's been a startling increase in oil and gas reserves," he said. "It wasn't supposed to happen. Just five or six years ago we were talking scarcity, a lot of doom and gloom."
Stewart contends those who would protect their own business as well as forces that advocated investment in alternative energy sources are responding to the American oil and gas industry's newfound business muscle by fostering misinformation about the industry, citing as example "Promised Land," an anti-fracking movie set for a December release and starring Matt Damon. Critics say the movie portrays America's oil and gas producers as willing to go to any lengths to protect their revenue stream, regardless of the damage it might do to drinking water supplies. The movie was financed in part by the United Arab Emirates.
"I believe the people who promoted that view are afraid this plentiful, affordable energy will change the politics of how we deal with energy policy," Stewart said, noting there've been 1.3 million frac jobs safely completed over the past six decades in the U.S., "80,000 of them in Ohio."
"What is it you have to do to prove a 60-year-old process is safe?" he asked.
Stewart said Eastern Ohio's oil and gas reserves in the Marcellus and Utica layers could bring the petrochemical industry back to U.S. shores, perhaps even the Ohio Valley, bringing jobs and a new revenue stream for beleaguered state and local government. He said the availability of abundant, affordable oil and gas is already yielding big savings for its residential and business customers and appears destined to be "a win for the state of Ohio."
"It can be the economic renaissance for the state of Ohio," he said, noting sales tax receipts in Carroll County have gone up 30 percent since the industry began drilling there.
"That's a direct indicator, a direct measure of economic activity," he said. "(And) nobody's died, nobody's water has been polluted, nobody's been devastated by the process. It's been all pluses. The only negatives are in the fevered minds of the anti-development crowd."
Rhonda Reda, executive director of the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program, said ensuring there is an available, qualified work force in place is key.
"The bottom line is, it's important to be able to have an adult conversation, to figure out ways not just landowners and the oil and gas companies benefit, but entire communities can benefit from drilling," she said. "There are so many auxiliary jobs, most people just don't realize it."
Capping the presentations was a brief discussion featuring three oil and gas related businesses that chose to locate operations in Jefferson County - Heavy Duty Industrial, Premier Pump and Environmental Management Services, Steubenville.
Heavy Duty's Cory Jursik said his company's decision was based on location.
"For us, being in the center of everything is key," he said, adding they could add "another 50 or 60 employees" by the end of the year.
EMS's representative said they'd surveyed customers to figure out where they should locate their office, and the overwhelming response was "Steubenville."
"That was what drew us, the central location," he said. "And we've had a fantastic welcome from the community."
Premier Pump's Phil Bowman said there's also a good labor pool to draw from.
"This is the place we want to be," he said. "We can get in a lot of different directions really fast."
Bowman said he's planning to have "25 or 30" people on staff within the next 12-18 months. He recently inked a deal with the county commission for a 4.8-acre parcel at the industrial park, where he'll build a 5,000-square-foot operations center.
(Harris can be contacted at email@example.com.)