Can we get back glass industry?

This past week we were exhibiting at a glass conference in Columbus. At the booth next to ours I overheard a vendor ask the manager of a Wisconsin glass plant, “Where do you get your natural gas from?” “I’m not sure. Mexico, I think.” Said the manager. I couldn’t contain myself. I had to explain to him that much of the natural gas that fueled his plant was from West Virginia and Southeast Ohio. “That is why you should come to the MOV if you decide to expand.” Sadly, this was common. Most people had no idea that the MOV has the cheapest, most abundant natural gas in the industrialized world. Fuel to fire their furnaces is a major cost to the glass industry. We have the solution.

We visited with the manager of a German glass plant. He was blunt. Their single greatest cost is for natural gas. He told me that 50 percent of their natural gas comes from Russia. That is expensive. The other half comes from the Netherlands and Norway. Competing on the world market is a challenge for them. A manager from Libby glass in Toledo told me that in the late 1800s Libby moved from Boston to Toledo so that they could be close to the largest oil and gas field in the world at that time. That shallow oil and gas field stretched from Toledo to Indianapolis. The field was developed long before modern hydraulic fracturing. Back then, they stimulated wells by lowering nitroglycerin into a well and setting off an explosion. That large oil and gas field eventually declined but Libby is still in Toledo today.

West Virginia once had a flourishing glass industry. There were glass factories along many of our rivers. We had cheap abundant natural gas for fuel, sand for raw materials, water, rail, a skilled work force and were close to markets. Does that sound familiar? Even when our local natural gas declined we had the long-haul pipelines that were built during the Depression to bring natural gas here from the wells in Texas and the Gulf Coast.

As the USA’s natural gas supply continued to decline in the 1970s we no longer had cheap abundant energy.

Labor was much cheaper in places like China and India. We lost our competitive advantage and most of our industry to foreign countries. None of the glass conference attendees could tell us the last time a new glass plant was built here.

Maybe it is time to change that. We spent most of the conference making the attendees aware of what we have to offer here in MOV. That is a good start. We met some vendors to the glass industry that offered to help us. If we succeed in bringing industry back here, those vendors also win because they can sell equipment.

We had a significant economic development announcement this past week with the investment of $84 billion by China Energy Investment Corporation in West Virginia. We don’t know all of the specifics at this time but we expect it will be a game changing investment for West Virginia and the Shale Crescent (Mid-Ohio Valley). Shale Crescent USA congratulates everyone involved in making this happen including West Virginia Governor Justice and West Virginia Secretary of Commerce Thrasher. This will have far reaching implications including additional investments from a variety of downstream industries. Successes like this give our people hope and encourage other companies to look at the Shale Crescent Region (MOV) for expansion.

Thoughts to ponder.

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Greg Kozera is the Director of Marketing for Shale Crescent USA www.shalecrescentusa.com. He has over 40 years of experience in the energy industry. Greg is a leadership expert with a Masters in Environmental Engineering and the author of four books and numerous published articles.

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