Bringing manufacturing jobs back to the Mid-Ohio Valley

A little over two years ago at an energy conference in Abingdon, Va., Gov. Terry McAuliffe was clearly excited about planned pipelines that would bring Marcellus and Utica gas to eastern Virginia. He said, “We will use the natural gas in these pipelines to bring manufacturing jobs to eastern Virginia.” It hit me like a ton of bricks. That is Ohio’s, Pennsylvania’s and West Virginia’s gas that Virginia will be using! Why can’t they use their abundant natural gas to create manufacturing and petrochemical jobs there instead of sending it all out of state like they did for decades with timber and coal?

About the same time as the governor’s speech a group of successful business leaders in Marietta realized the same thing about Ohio natural gas leaving the state instead of being used to create manufacturing and petrochemical jobs. They decided to do something about it. They formed Shale Crescent USA, a non-profit, non-governmental organization to brand the region and promote the Mid-Ohio Valley. Their vision is to enhance the quality of life and standard of living for the people of the Mid- Ohio Valley by encouraging manufacturers to come and use the cheapest and most abundant natural gas in the industrialized world.

These local business and economic development leaders realized that oil and natural gas had created prosperity for the Mid-Ohio Valley on two other occasions. The first was in the late 1800s with the discovery of shallow, abundant oil and natural gas fields in Ohio and West Virginia. Much of the early industries including the glass industry and the early petrochemical industry developed during this time. The second boom happened after World War II. The long-haul pipelines built during the depression and World War II brought natural gas from the gulf coast into the region. This created the manufacturing and petrochemical boom of the 1950s, 60s and early 70s. Following the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s and the “energy crisis” we experienced until 2010, many of these companies left to go overseas or to the Gulf Coast where energy was more accessible, abundant and lower cost. This created “the rust belt.” The remnants of this boom are still evident today with many of the factories being repurposed or standing vacant.

But the world has changed again. Not only is the Marcellus and Utica the largest natural gas field in the world it has also accounted for almost ALL of the recent growth in U.S. natural gas production. In 2010 the northeast provided just 3 percent of U.S. natural gas supply. That number now exceeds 30 percent and by 2020 is projected to be 35 percent.

We believe we are on the verge of another growth boom for the MOV. For businesses that are already here we believe that it is important for them to know that they have some unique competitive advantages. We believe that they are in the right place at the right time to grow, prosper and create more local jobs.

In the next few weeks we will be discussing the unique advantages that position this valley for growth and prosperity again and what local people and businesses can do to help. We hope you find this series informative and uplifting.

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Greg Kozera is director of marketing for Shale Crescent USA, an economic development initiative to encourage business growth in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

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