Officials talk energy issues at Marietta College forum

Photo by Peyton Neely Will Lloyd, regional liaison for the Ohio Secretary of State, left, talks with Ohio Sen. Frank Hoagland, R-Mingo Junction, during a break in the Consumer Energy Alliance Ohio Valley Energy and Manufacturing Forum on Wednesday in Andrew Hall’s Great Room at Marietta College.

MARIETTA — State representatives and business leaders from across the Mid-Ohio Valley congregated at Marietta College Wednesday to discuss the future of energy in the area.

Consumer Energy Alliance welcomed business representatives to meet with government officials to share ideas and explore new ones about the oil and gas industry and making better use of the area’s natural resources.

“We are trying to spread the message of economic opportunity for the Ohio Valley,” said Brydon Ross, vice president of state affairs for Consumer Energy Alliance. “There are so many other parts of these chains that can produce more and more revenue for the Ohio Valley. We want to get as many team players to talk about it.”

Ohio Rep. Jay Edwards, R-Athens, attended the event because he said bringing jobs to Ohio is one of his main priorities.

“If you take a poll all across Ohio to see what residents want, it’s jobs,” he said. “Here in Southeast Ohio, we have a natural resource that creates cheap energy.”

Edwards said good legislation happens whenever representatives work with the people of the communities.

“What the Consumer Energy Alliance is doing, being a non-partisan group, is supporting job growth in our area,” he said. “It’s about time we start looking to make more use of the cheapest natural gas we have here and our Ohio River.”

Representatives from businesses attended the event, including Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation, Pioneer Group/ Pioneer Pipe, Polymer Alliance Zone, Ohio Valley University, ACT Ohio, Parkersburg-Marietta Building Trades Council, and IBEW Local 972.

The idea of expanding broadband Internet throughout the area was a major discussion point during the forum.

“Broadband has always been an issue because businesses aren’t going to want to move here without Internet,” said Edwards. “It’s almost like a public utility anymore and we plan to tackle some of those issues.”

Ohio Sen. Frank Hoagland, R-Mingo Junction, said he would like to see more use of the Ohio River.

“We can’t become the first obstacle to the people’s success,” he said. “It’s an education process to open the line of communication between the workforce, legislation and businesses. We all need to get that flat-line understanding of what’s going on here and to be fair and honest between everyone. Bring all the players together.”

The Energy Consumer Alliance has held forums in Canton, Wheeling and Pittsburgh in the last six months. The goal of Energy Consumer Alliance is to bring together businesses, residents, producers, manufacturers, unions and legislators to enhance economic growth all over the country. There are 400,000 members nationally that take part in forums regularly.

“This region has so much potential and we start the conversations that look at where we are going to be in the future,” said Ross. “We want to show the benefits that economic growth has on the community as a whole.”