Oil and gas development could result in $36 billion being invested in Ohio over the next few years, an energy official said Friday during a forum in Marietta.
It was standing room only during a day-long forum at the Lafayette Hotel designed to help area business leaders understand the potential impact of oil and gas development expected to take off in the region over the next several years.
For Dane Ryan, a business development leader for Triad Engineering, of Athens, Friday's forum was a good opportunity to network.
Many of the 250 people in attendance were local business leaders or affiliated with oil and gas companies.
"We're a civil engineering firm and do a lot of surveying, technical engineering and site prep," Ryan said. "We've been watching as our other offices -located closer to Pennsylvania - have been growing. We're expecting the same kind of growth as this exploration moves into this area."
Rhonda Reda, executive director of the Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program, told the audience Friday the $36 billion figure. She said development in Washington County would likely take up to 10 years, as high pressure pipelines and other infrastructure would have to be put in place.
"There's no doubt it is heading this way," she said.
Friday's forum was sponsored by the Ohio Energy Resource Alliance, the Ohio Small Business Development Center in Marietta and the Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce.
Lowell resident Betsy Cook, a member of the Southeast Ohio Fracking Interest Group, said she attended the Friday forum, which was largely marking the potential benefits of oil and gas development, even though she has concerns about fracking.
Cook and other members of the interest group passed out information about other upcoming meetings, including one set for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Marietta College's McDonough Auditorium that will entertain arguments for and against the development of the resources.
"I'm hoping everyone will get educated and see exactly what is coming and not just focus on money and jobs," she said. "We need our elected officials to start thinking about increased truck traffic and the amount of water that may be used for fracking these wells.
"I'm hoping people start baseline testing their water," she said. "There's a lot that needs done and not all of it is business-related."
Charlotte Keim, president of the Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce, said Friday's forum was geared toward those who own a business that will in some way be impacted by the shale drilling, as well as those who are interested in starting a business that might be impacted by the drilling.
"We're learning that we have the potential to see some great growth over the next few decades," she said.
Keim said part of the forum did address concerns, like filling the need for skilled labor.
Washington State Community College President Bradley Ebersole said he attended the forum to learn more about the kinds of careers and programs the college may need.
"We recently hired a consultant that will help us over the next few months develop a needs assessment," Ebersole said. "Our goal is to stay ahead of the demand."
Keim said the area is already seeing some economic impacts as oil and gas companies have begun paying for leases and buying equipment in the area.
Mick Maag, 51, of Cambridge, said he has been negotiating land leases in the area for Wishguard, a company that has leased 40,000 acres in Washington County for oil and gas development.
"Over the next few weeks we will be issuing $5.3 million in leases to landowners in this area," he said. "That's got to have some significant economic impacts."