Investment: Job numbers may not see promised boost

West Virginians patiently waiting for news about that $84 billion President Trump and Gov. Jim Justice said was going to be invested here by China, over the next 20 years, are getting some data out of Ohio that shows we might not be missing out on as much as the politicians claimed.

According to a report commissioned by JobsOhio, investment in eastern Ohio’s shale sector (oil and natural gas) over just the last eight years has nearly reached the same level, at $74 billion. In fact, for the first half of 2018, the bulk of the money invested was in Belmont, Monroe and Jefferson counties. One would be hard pressed to convince the folks in those counties they are the beneficiaries of that kind of “investment.”

Meanwhile, they are still waiting for their own big news: Thai chemical company PTT Global Chemical and its South Korean partner, Daelim Industrial Co., may still build an enormous proposed petrochemical plant in Belmont County that would depend on ethane. That kind of plan likely sounds familiar to Wood County residents still awaiting news on a proposed cracker plant here.

“The landscape for American energy looks vastly different now than it did just five or 10 years ago, and that is largely due to the resources being unlocked in the Ohio Valley,” said Matt Cybulski, director of energy and chemicals at JobsOhio.

And yet, unemployment rates in eastern Ohio are the higher figures spoiling the cries of “economic boom!” for the rest of the state.

In fact, Andrew Thomas, the executive in residence at the Energy Policy Center, noted, pointed out the report on investment mentions nothing about the number of jobs associated with the industry — and who is filling them.

Of course $84 billion would be a nice injection for the Mountain State, and one Commerce Department officials should still be vigorously working to cement. But it would be even nicer if lawmakers worked just as hard to ensure that kind of investment was truly a benefit to West Virginians — that more of the reward for our riches stayed right here where it belongs.