MARIETTA - A recent roundtable sponsored by the Buckeye Hills-Hocking Valley Regional District and the Ohio Development Services Agency helped stress to area governments and organizations the importance of pooling their knowledge and resources to prepare for the coming growth in the oil and gas industry.
The "Shale Development: State Resources Regional Roundtable," held Oct. 31 at Marietta's Comfort Inn, was offered to a 12-county area including the eight counties covered by the district, according to Gwynn Stewart, district communications director.
"(The roundtable) was to provide awareness of what state and regional resources are available to local government," said Stewart.
Sharing information also helps to learn one another's "best practices," she added. "There's no sense repeating it if they've learned something that's helpful."
The meeting was attend by Washington County Commissioners Cora Marshall and Tim Irvine, as well as representatives from the city of Marietta, the Southeastern Ohio Port Authority and local educational institutions.
Roundtable speakers "were encouraging the different counties to have a structured plan (about) how we are going to provide service to the many, many people coming into the area," said Washington County commissioner Cora Marshall, who attended the roundtable.
For Ohio Department of Transportation's (ODOT) Division of Jobs and Commerce, "our goal is to align transportation investments and strategies with the needs of Ohio's businesses and workers," said Brad Biggs, division regional manager in ODOT districts 9, 10 and 11 and a speaker at the shale development roundtable.
When it comes to business needs in the Marietta region, "It's more of a supply chain attitude for shale development," Biggs said. "It's companies that are looking to be within 70 to 100 miles of the shale play."
By working with ODOT's jobs and commerce division, "We can give them the ability to either expand that business or find a place to build that business within that area," he added.
The Marietta/Washington County area already has some major players in the oil and gas industry like Pioneer Pipe, said Biggs.
"...Pioneer Pipe had a large influence on the Pennsylvania (shale) play. I know it wants to be in the new (Ohio) play," he added.
Rick Hindman, assistant executive director of Buckeye Hills-Hocking Valley Regional District, said he was there in his role as chairman of the Natural Resources Committee for the Ohio Appalachian Task force that covers 32 Appalachian counties.
He said his focus at the roundtable was on ways for state, county and local entities and residents to share information related to the growth of the oil and gas industry.
"There has been an abundance of information out there related to property owners and leasing, (but) not so much information about local community impacts," said Hindman.
The state of Ohio has learned much about the impact of shale industry growth from other states, according to Hindman.
"We need some on-the-ground information, lessons-learned type of information" from places like Wetzel County in West Virginia, he said.
Hindman cited the example of Chesapeake Energy in Wetzel County. Early on, the company established a monthly citizens panel in the county to get input from residents. Issues discussed included school bus schedules and pot hole repairs.
"(A citizens panel) makes for a better relationship," said Hindman.
The panel's format was copied by Wetzel County when it created a bimonthly citizens panel comprised of all companies in the county working in oil and gas.
Marshall said, "I think it was a very good resource for information on how to get the message out."