MOV center stage at W.Va. ethane conference

CHARLESTON – Parkersburg and the Mid-Ohio Valley are front and center this week at the 2014 Marcellus to Manufacturing Ethane Development Conference.

The third-year event is part of the the two-day West Virginia Construction and Design Expo at the Charleston Civic Center. Much of the talk at M2M on the opening day Wednesday centered around Brazil-based Odebrecht’s plans to build an ethane cracker plant in Washington, W.Va.

Four of the five speakers who opened the conference had ties to the area or that project: West Virginia Manufacturing Association Chairman Karl Boelter, the manager at DuPont’s Washington Works plant; Contractors Association of West Virginia President Phillip L. Weser, a Parkersburg South High School graduate; West Virginia Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette, a Parkersburg native; and David C. Peebles, vice president of business development for Odebrecht Braskem.

The first afternoon session featured an announcement by West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin that Antero Resources had signed an agreement with Odebrecht to be a main supplier of ethane for the cracker.

Because of the interest in the project and the region, the city of Parkersburg for the first time set up a booth at the Expo. Development Director Rickie Yeager and City Planner John Whitmore are manning the table to provide information to businesses looking at expanding or curious about the prospects in the region.

“We’re here today promoting Parkersburg as a central location in the Utica and Marcellus shale area,” said Yeager, noting they’d talked with a number of businesses Wednesday morning.

Among the features they’re touting is the city’s proximity: to oil and gas drilling operations; major metropolitan areas; access to road, rail, river and air transportation, educational opportunities; quality of life; and economic highlights, including more than $180 million invested in infrastructure in the last 10 to 15 years.

“We have a lot to offer,” Yeager said.

A Wednesday morning program featured Robin Ambrozy, director of non-traditional programs for West Virginia University at Parkersburg, and Todd Fox, training manager for DuPont Washington Works, discussing a collaborative effort through which students in the chemical polymer operating technology program are employed at the facility. The emphasis was on industry and education working together to train the workforce needed for jobs in the region.

Joyce Okes, program director with the Workforce Investment Board of the Mid-Ohio Valley, said the presence of so many people with Parkersburg connections at the conference is a positive sign for the region.

“I think it shows that we’re definitely in a progress mode and we’re seeing this industry grow and expand,” Okes said.

Polymer Alliance Zone President Karen Facemyer was part of a presentation Wednesday afternoon on the state of the plastics industry in West Virginia and the country.

Today’s agenda features a panel on financing downstream infrastructure buildout that includes WesBanco Market President Joe Campbell from the Parkersburg office.