Sunday, July 8, 2012 at 3:30 PM
Several studies predict that the natural gas drilling boom will bring thousands of jobs to Ohio. But exactly how many of these jobs will go to local companies versus out of state workers is a big question mark. Trumbull County is still in the early phase of natural gas drilling. Ideastream’s Michelle Kanu has this story about that county’s efforts to ensure the jobs go to local contractors.
In eastern Trumbull County, not far from where Ohio borders Pennsylvania, Vienna Township is one of those small, rural communities you’ve probably never heard of. Big manufacturer Delphi-Packard in nearby Warren was once the area’s biggest employer, until it went bankrupt in 2005 and gradually cut thousands of jobs. At the peak of the recession, Trumbull County’s unemployment rate topped 14 percent.
But a new industry is coming to town. CNX, a subsidiary of Consol Energy, recently received a permit to drill for natural gas in Vienna.
(sound of truck driving fades in)
Dascenzo: “What we’re approaching now—see those piles of dirt?”
Rich Dascenzo Jr. is a Vienna Township Trustee. He’s driving me out to the field where CNX recently cleared the dirt to install a drilling rig. Dascenzo says some local businesses are excited about the temporary workers coming to the area, but he says he’s not sure how many permanent jobs the drilling activity will bring.
Dascenzo: “You know what, I got no idea yet. Like I said, we’re a small town. And what’s here now—we have a couple of gas stations, a grocery store and a couple bars. I don’t think it’s going to bring any new growth, but I think it will help stabilize or pick up some of the small businesses in town.”
Like many Ohioans, Dascenzo is waiting for the drilling boom to really hit. Several studies—many sponsored by the oil and gas industry—estimate Ohio could see anywhere from 65,000 to 200,000 new jobs by 2015. Since most of the activity is in the early stages, the state isn’t yet tracking how much of the work is being done by Ohio companies.
Duritsky: “We’ve seen that often times there will be some level of out of state workforce that comes in initially.”
Jacob Duritsky is the head of business attraction for Team NEO, a group that represents economic development directors from 16 northeast Ohio counties.
Duritsky: “The stat we heard when we went to visit the Range Resources site in Pennsylvania was initially three in ten jobs went to PA’s domestic workforce. Now that’s eight in ten jobs. So there is a transition period that they went through but eventually those jobs do go to our citizens.”
How long that transition period will last is hard to tell. It may depend, in part, on the local contractors themselves. They’re eager to do the work. The tricky part is knowing how to get it.
Eric Planey is the VP of international business attraction at the chamber of commerce for Youngstown and Warren. He says one of the biggest challenges local contractors face is marketing themselves to the industry.
Planey: “Part of it is, a lot of people think that if Chesapeake, or BP is doing the drilling that they’re the ones they have to deal with and that’s not actually the case. There’s a whole layer of companies below that called oil field service companies and they’re the ones that actually carry out a lot of the drilling mechanics.”
And some contractors don’t actually qualify for the jobs.
(sound of welding fades in)
At this facility still under construction in Hubbard Township, sparks fly as Evets Oil and Gas workers weld long steel pipes that will eventually carry natural gas away from a well. Evets is locally owned and one of a handful of Ohio companies contracting for Chesapeake and others.
CEO Chris Jaskiewicz says even after you learn who the players are, it’s not just a matter of getting a foot in the door.
Jaskiewicz: “The first thing that they’re going to ask is name some other projects that you’ve done in the oil and gas industry. Well if you’ve never done one, it’s the classic kid coming out of college with a resume. They say you need experience. Well how do you get experience without a job?”
Jaskiewicz says local contractors also have to show a clean safety record, hold a number of industry level certifications, and demonstrate that their staff has the right skills.
Seventy miles south in Carroll County, a lack of training is one issue that has kept local workers from getting more contract bids in the drilling activity there over the last 18 months.
Tom Wheaton is a Carroll County Commissioner.
Wheaton: “Part of the difficulty is that many of these jobs are specialized, and there’s also training required, and we’re still trying to get the training going for what they need.”
In the meantime, Wheaton says he’s not bothered by the influx of out of state workers. They shop the local stores, eat at local restaurants, and he says the sheer number of people coming can spur the need for future development projects.
Wheaton: “We have a commerce park that we’re in the process of trying to develop for oil and gas. And we have about 300 acres out there and the assumed number was 700 or 800 jobs.”
Wheaton says the new commerce park has induced some local job creation—the electrical, plumbing, and heating and air conditioning are all being installed by companies based in Carroll County.
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