WHEELING - Just because natural gas drillers supply many of their own workers and services does not mean the Upper Ohio Valley will not gain manufacturing jobs from the shale rush.
In fact, a long-dormant section of South Wheeling now shines with hope, as the Arrowsmith Fabrication is performing work for natural gas processing plants.
This serves as an example of the new direction the area's manufacturing sector is taking - a direction that is helping to cover the loss of jobs primarily in the steel industry.
Brett Francis, co-owner of Arrowsmith Fabrication in South Wheeling, performs some machining inside the shop on Wood Street.
"We feel oil and gas is going to be our bread and butter in the future," said Michael Siebieda, co-owner of Arrowsmith. "It is just a matter of getting started."
Recently, Siebieda and co-owner Brett Francis manufactured a 6,000-pound "cattle stop" for the Williams Partners natural gas processing plant at Fort Beeler, in Marshall County. This is a large steel device designed to keep animals out of the way, but allow trucks to enter the plant.
As Siebieda and Francis perform work for Williams - and try to receive more jobs from additional oil and gas companies - they are running a new business that they know would probably not exist without the burgeoning shale rush. The Wheeling residents are so confident in their ability to perform the specialized work associated with the natural gas industry that they quit secure jobs to start their own business in South Wheeling. Together, they have 52 years of experience in welding and machining.
In the burgeoning natural gas industry, companies like Arrowsmith can perform work at drilling sites, pipeline sites, processing plants and other areas.
The Arrowsmith shop is an example of one of the many manufacturing businesses that can be created in the local area because the natural gas and oil extraction is taking place.
"There is so much work out there. We are just getting started by meeting with people and getting our name out there," said Siebieda.
One company with whom Siebieda and Francis said they signed a "master service agreement" is Williams, which is the company now operating the former Caiman Energy processing plant along U.S. 250 between Cameron and Moundsville. The Tulsa, Okla.-based company plans to build $1.34 billion worth of additional processing capacity in Marshall County, meaning Williams will have spent $3.84 billion for infrastructure in northern West Virginia over the past few years.
A new study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy shows that increasing extraction from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations could be responsible for as many as 266,000 jobs in Ohio by 2035. Much of this growth could happen in Belmont, Jefferson, Harrison and Monroe counties.
"Whether it be equipment for pumping, filtration stations, collection systems, or separating liquids from gas, we are trying to find supply chain pressures where existing suppliers largely in and around Texas have excess demand so Ohio companies can become a part of the value chain," said Dave Karpinski, vice president and director of energy enterprise for the Northeast Ohio Regional Nonprofit Technology-based Economic Development group.
The analysis also shows that in 2012, the industry directly or indirectly contributed about $4.1 billion into Ohio's economy, or gross state product.
By 2035, the total value added to the state's economy will be more than $35 billion, the information states.
As mentioned in the study, institutions of higher learning such as Belmont College and Eastern Gateway Community College are working to train Ohio's labor force to work in the oil and natural gas business.
For West Virginia, the study shows that drilling and fracking is already responsible for 11,800 jobs, a number that could grow to 29,000 in 2020 - and 58,000 by 2035. In addition, shale energy development will generate $283 million in state and local government revenue in 2012 alone and could be generating $884 million annually by 2020 in West Virginia.