YOUNGSTOWN - More than 8,000 new jobs have been created in the last year with a direct link to the Utica Shale boom. And that's just a start, business officials said.
Development of the Utica Shale, described by a top executive of Consol Energy as still in its "infancy stages," will mean jobs and probably lots of them.
Harry Schurr, general manager of Utica Operations and Hess J.V., was one of a number of speakers at Thursday's Youngstown Ohio Utica & Natural Gas, or Y.O.U.N.G., expo who talked candidly about jobs and his company, which employs 9,000 people nationwide.
"Coal and natural gas provide 75 percent of the power in the United States," Schurr said. "And we are sitting on two of the largest shale plays in the U.S. It just doesn't get any better than that."
Safety, he said, is his company's highest priority, and if an applicant has a poor safety record, he or she likely will be passed by for employment.
Drilling rig workers, Schurr said, will earn a very high wage - easily in the six-figure range - when the time comes. But he cautioned it's very "dirty, strenuous work in all kinds of weather."
"That's the type of opportunities that are out there," Schurr said. "Show me another industry that can provide those kinds of jobs for people out there."
As far as the number of rigs that will need workers, David Mustine, managing director of energy, chemicals and polymers for JobsOhio, said there have been 360 oil and gas drilling permits issued, 129 wells drilled with 27 producing as of Aug. 22 in the state.
"There is still a lot of work to determine how big the play is," Mustine said, adding that Chesapeake, Consol, Hess, Gulfport are here with major oil companies like Exxon-Mobil, Shell, BP and Chevron just getting started.
Mustine attributed much of Ohio's job growth - 111,300 new jobs in the last 18 months to "general improvement" in the economy's nine key sectors headed by IT, but pointed out the energy industry has invested more than $860 million.
Discussion about job creation didn't focus only on Ohio.
Consol's Schurr also spoke about jobs that will be created across the state line at the recently announced ethane cracking or "cracker" plant.
He was referring to Shell Oil Co.'s site near Pittsburgh where it intends to build a multi-billion-dollar petrochemical refinery. The cracker plant would convert ethane from bountiful Marcellus Shale natural gas liquids into more profitable chemicals such as ethylene, which are then used to produce everything from plastics to tires to antifreeze.
"There is tremendous opportunity that can come from this. We need to get behind this project. It's going to open up tremendous opportunities," Schurr said.
Those opportunities will include construction of ancillary businesses like hotels and restaurants, along with the steel mills that will "crank out miles and miles of steel," Schurr said, all providing a huge economic boost to the region.
Employment is up at Youngstown's V&M Star as well.
V&M Star's $46 million payroll is up by 42 percent, according to president and CEO Joel Mastervich, who also took the stage. Mastervich said hirings for his new rolling mill, being built on the Youngstown / Girard border, are at about 90 percent. The mill is expected to be at full rolling capacity by the end of next year.
Mastervich was proud to tell the hundred or so people gathered to hear him speak that more than 80 percent of his employees come from the tri-county region.
"Our mission is to be the employer of choice," Mastervich said.
The V&M CEO expressed his enthusiasm at the burgeoning developments.
"This is truly an exciting time. Even one year later, I am much, much more confident about our collective future. It's a great opportunity," Mastervich said.
On the exhibit floor, Marty Loney and Roland "Butch" Taylor, who were manning the exhibit space for Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 396, said they were pleased at the desire for many companies linked to the Utica Shale Play to use skilled trades people.
Taylor said the Local has signed up 13 new companies and 108 new members in the last two years.
And if the Local reaches a level of saturation on available workers, they go to trained people in neighboring Locals.
"In a 48-hour period, you can get 2 guys or 600 guys, all highly skilled and trained," he said.
Linert is business editor of the Warren Tribune. Salem News reporter Larry Shields contributed to this story.