The president of JobsOhio believes Southeast Ohio's economy is about to bloom, thanks in large part to projected growthof the oil and gas industry's mining of the state's Marcellus and Utica shale deposits.
"The shale opportunities are very interesting-and not just for shale drilling, but for all ancillary industries as well," said Mark Kvamme, president and interim chief investment officer with JobsOhio.
The private, nonprofit corporation, assembled by Gov. John Kasich, is focused on job growth and economic development within the state.
Ohio Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta, invited Kvamme on a tour of Washington, Noble, Monroe and Guernsey counties in his district during November.
"He's out of California and is a great supporter of venture capital and we need more venture capital in this state," Thompson said. "And the primary focus of JobsOhio is to bring more private investment to Ohio.
"But my focus was really for him to come and see our part of the state, to learn about strengths, weaknesses, hopes and plans for this area," he added. "We're seeing a great opportunity and demand for energy production and the shale fracturing industry is providing the most aggressive demand for employees."
Kvamme agreed, adding that shale mining would, directly or indirectly, impact all areas of the economy. He said that while it's not the only venue for economic promise in the area, it's likely to provide the biggest boost.
"We're going to need diesel mechanics, engineers, CDL-licensed truck operators, geologists-a whole range of trained people," Kvamme said. "This will benefit the entire community."
Shawn Bennett, field director with consulting firm EID (Energy In Depth) Ohio, said the shale oil and gas industry is expected to produce a huge number of job opportunities.
"Many of those will not necessarily be out on a rig in the field," he said. "There will be a need for architects, public relations, human relations and real estate personnel. Those are just a few positions people don't usually associate with the oil and gas industry."
During a recent presentation in Cambridge, Bennett noted a September 2011 independent study by Kleinhenz & Associates on the potential economic impact from shale mining indicated more than 205,000 jobs could be created in Ohio by 2015.
"It takes 75 jobs to take a well from planning to production-good paying jobs that will help boost local economies," Bennett said.
The economic impact study showed in Pennsylvania, where shale mining is already being done, salaries are ranging from $28,760 for oil and gas mining service unit operators with short-term, on-the-job training, to more than $87,000 for environmental engineering technicians with related oil and gas mining experience.
The majority of jobs listed in the report required moderate to long-term on the job training or related experience. Two engineering jobs listed required bachelor's degrees.
Educational institutions like Washington State Community College are gearing up to help meet the training needs for those who will be working in the shale industry.
"The challenge is what's going to be needed and when," said Brenda Kornmiller, dean of industrial programs at WSCC.
"The more conversations we have with the companies that will be involved the better we can tailor our courses to their needs," she said, noting that the college is already offering geoscience courses like physical geography and geology.
"But that's just one point of entry for people interested in jobs related to the shale industry," Kornmiller added. "Anyone with interest in land, the environment, even pipeline mapping will be needed."
She said WSCC is also offering a couple of new non-credit courses for people interested in the oil and gas industry, including an intro course to oil and gas, and introduction to abstraction which includes property research.
"But we're also offering a new diesel engine certificate that focuses on larger engines used in equipment in the oil and gas industry," Kornmiller said. "That course should be in place by this fall."
Other courses that could prepare employees for the projected shale industry workforce may include drafting and administrative services, she said.
Kornmiller said WSCC has had several meetings with oil and gas industry executives and is working in conjunction with Marietta College's petroleum engineering department to meet the industry's needs.
Kvamme said existing chemical plants up and down the Ohio River are expected to benefit from the increased oil and gas shale activity.
"I'm encouraged by a lot of factory opportunities that already exist in that area of Ohio. And I think this oil and gas boon will be big for the whole petrochemical industry," he said."And we're pretty confident we'll have a couple of refineries in the area and possibly even a cracker plant."
Bennett explained that cracker plants strip the components from oil and gas extracted out of the Marcellus and Utica shales and those components can be used as fuel by the chemical industry.
"And just one cracker plant in Ohio would provide an estimated 14,000 permanent jobs," he said. "Washington County also has a long history of chemical industries, and this oil and gas extraction will provide a boost for those companies through cheaper fuel stock."
Kvamme noted that chemical industries like local polymer plants will benefit from low energy costs but also from easy access to "feedstock" gases like ethane, butane, propane and methane used in product processing.
He said the cheaper fuel and access to the feedstock gases could also help bring more companies into the area and that there have already been talks with a large steel company and other manufacturers.
"We want to be sure these companies choose Ohio," Kvamme said. "And what's crucial to the entire Appalachian area is the Ohio River, for transport of an entire array of materials and supplies.
"But we have to be careful," he said. "We need to do this intelligently. A concern of the governor is that this does not become a 'boom-town' effort. We want sustainable, long-term economic development."
Kvamme said other success stories with potential for growth include Thermo Fisher Scientific in Marietta and spin-off industries, Ormet in Monroe County and the solar generating facility expected to be constructed Noble County.