By Jim Mackinnon
Beacon Journal business writer
Ohio needs to do more to prepare for what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says will be a positive economic impact from developing the state’s rich oil and natural gas-filled Utica and Marcellus underground shale fields, the organization said Tuesday.
The chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy introduced its new “Shale Works for US” campaign in Columbus, saying the ongoing marketing program involves in part sponsoring educational and advocacy events in Ohio and other states. The pro-shale development campaign, which was put together over the previous six months, will be aimed at the general public as well as businesses.
“We’re planning on doing this well into the foreseeable future,” said Christopher Guith, vice president for the chamber energy institute.
The program has a multimillion dollar budget funded by the energy institute, he said.
The campaign involves showing the public the potential shale economic benefits are not just in the oil and gas industry but spread into steel, manufacturing, petrochemicals and even the hospitality industries.
The campaign launch will roll next into Pennsylvania, West Virginia and then Washington, D.C., Guith said. Initial educational and advocacy events are scheduled for later this summer, he said.
The “Shale Works for US” program will complement much of what the Ohio Shale Coalition is doing now, said Linda Woggan, executive director of the coalition and executive vice president of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. The national campaign will amplify the Ohio Shale Coalition’s messages and money, she said.
“We are really focused on all of the other businesses that can benefit from [shale],” Woggan said. “I think it is important for people to understand this will dramatically change our economy.”
Ohio businesses can benefit by directly becoming part of the shale energy supply chain, she said. Businesses and communities can benefit economically in less direct ways as well, she said.
Bill Bussey, superintendent of the Mid-East Career and Technology Centers, a four-county system for high school-age and adult students based in Zanesville, took part in the Columbus news conference.
He said afterward that he is talking with employers in the state on the skills they need in employees as they gear up for shale production. One study projects that 65,000 new jobs will be created in Ohio by 2014 as a result of shale development, he said.
“We’re just trying to prepare our students for those jobs,” Bussey said. “I don’t think they [the public] realize the impact this will have on the economy. We’re trying to make sure we adapt our program needs.”
For instance, it looks like there will be increased demand for pipe welders as well as for people who are licensed to drive large trucks and heavy construction vehicles, he said. There also will be increased shale-created demand for hotel, motel and restaurant workers, he said.
Bussey said the “Shale Works for US” program should help Ohio residents become better aware of the enormous potential of shale energy.
“It can be big,” he said. “If it’s not real, there’s a whole lot of companies spending money for it.”