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November 9, 2012

County needs to be ready for advancing shale boom

NEW CASTLE — Lawrence County’s workforce and businesses need to prepare for an economic boom from Marcellus Shale, an expert said.

Marcellus Shale is changing the geopolitical climate of the nation, and the county is in a good location to benefit from the gas and oil drilling that is evolving in western Pennsylvania, explained Joy Ruff, community outreach manager for the Marcellus Shale Coalition.

She addressed business and government members of the Lawrence County Economic Development Corp. about the coalition’s new website program, Marcellus on Main Street.

The online program provides businesses and community members an avenue to connect with the natural gas industry across Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia, Maryland and Ohio.

The site — www.marcellusonmainstreet.org — allows businesses to customize their individual web listing to promote their services and materials directly to the shale gas industry.

Ruff emphasized the county needs to have sites ready for spinoff industries from the shale.

Should Shell build its petrochemical or cracker plant in Midland, Beaver County, “there will be tremendous opportunity for new growth” in spinoff industries, Ruff said.

Ethylene, a natural gas byproduct widely used in the chemical industry, is a building block for many products, she said, noting it could prompt a wide range of related industries.

“You need to have sites ready for these companies,” she told Lawrence County leaders.

She noted the shale industry is committed to sourcing local, and a good local supply chain — a line of local businesses to supply goods and needs to the industry — helps communities take advantage of the opportunities.

Three ways the county can prepare, according to Ruff, is to:

•Make sure you have a listing of ready sites, with an understanding of the infrastructure to them — namely roads and transportation routes.

•Make sure your environment is welcoming to the industry.

•Have workforce development in place, having people with business and technical skills who are ready to work long hours and be hard working. Safety training also is a must with the gas industry, Ruff emphasized.

Production of just one single horizontal well is a $5 million investment, she said, noting it requires more than 150 occupations with more than 400 people to bring it on line.

The shale workforce has a diversity like no other industry, Ruff continued, and most jobs are not limited to the typical 9-to-5 workday.

Linda Nitch, Lawrence County Economic Development Corp. executive director, said her agency is developing a shale advisory task force.

Ruff encouraged her to invite the businesses to participate in the Main Street program, which is powered by the Marcellus Shale Coalition.

She also encouraged her to make sure the gas and oil industries know about PA CareerLink, the local job center.

As an exclusive promotion, Marcellus on Main Street is offering the first year of membership free for those who sign up before the end of 2012 she said.

The coalition’s headquarters are in Pittsburgh and can be reached at (412) 706-5160.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)

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