U.S. Rep Johnson visits Holiday Inn work site

SALEM – Mayor John Berlin said the Holiday Inn Express on the east end of town is not just for the gas and oil industry.

“It’s here for the people of Salem” Berlin said.

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson (R-6) said it’s the kind of development that’s happening all over his district.

Johnson visited the site along with city officials and developer Rod Herron on Tuesday.

“Up and down state Route 7 and Interstate 77 hotels and restaurant starts are coming up everywhere,” Johnson said. “People should take note of companies spending millions on brick and mortar projects.”

He said the shale boom and the country’s quest for energy independence is driving opportunities and forcing manufacturers to locate adjacent to the affordable resources.

“We’re seeing manufacturing come back,” Johnson said, explaining that Washington has to get out of the way with it regulations and taxes.

“This is about the region coming back,” Johnson said noting that shale boom job projects that soared to well over 200,000 new jobs two years ago “were not overplayed at all.”

He pointed to emerging technologies appearing as the shale play heads toward development and noted Ohio’s unemployment rate has dropped nearly four percent.

Start-up companies affiliated with oil and gas industry by products like the proposed cracker plant in Pennsylvania and another projected for Belmont County are taking notice.

“No I don’t think that’s an overestimate,” he said pointing to Ohio being about seven to eight years behind North Dakota’s oil and gas field development. “Work-force development – this is a new happening for us. It’s the same as North Dakota. It was new for them.”

Asked about oil and gas companies bringing their own people into the area, Johnson said “they’re not going to put unskilled workers on a drill pad” and pointed to local labor and labor unions capitalizing.

“Yes, we’re going to see an out-of-state workforce,” he said adding the state is helping to access special training while pointing to a Women in Energy Summit he presented at the Mahoning County Career & Technical Center last month.

“We need to work on workforce development,” Johnson said.

Berlin is looking forward to the hotel being open for the 2014 Salem Super Cruise when it celebrates its 10th anniversary.

Larry Kosiba, executive director of the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center, said the primary focus for him is supporting the oil and gas companies.

As far as lodging, “People have to go somewhere else,” he said. “Now they can stay here.”

He explained the big break for the project came when the hotel and banquet center were separated.

“The hotel was stand alone. It was critical that we separated them.”

Audrey Null, executive director of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber has to recommend places to stay on a weekly basis. She said the hotel is “a huge victory” to have people stay at night.

“It’ll bring in a lot of events. It was a no-brainer to put the banquet hall in,” Herron said,