Valley job experts say the new pipe finishing plant at the former Sheet and Tube building in Youngstown is only one example of ancillary industrial business that a Marcellus Shale boom will bring.
The new plant, announced Wednesday, is being opened by V&M Star sister company VAM USA, a Houston-based Vallourec subsidiary that manufactures casing and tubing connections for the American oil and gas industry. VAM has three other such plants located in oil country cities like Houston, Houma, La., and Oklahoma City.
"This is all about the supply chain, and we want to be the center for that supply chain for that industry in this area," Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber spokesman Tony Paglia said.
Tribune Chronicle / Joshua S. Flesher
Bob Simon of Simon-Novak explains fracking — a drilling process — with ETI student Nathan DiPiero of Cortland. Valley job experts say a lot of direct and indirect jobs are heading to the Valley because of the natural gas industry.
Eric Planey, the Chamber's vice president for international business attraction, said the potential shale drilling boom could be a "rising tide lifts all boats scenario" and said local businesses are already seeing an uptick in revenue, citing increased bank deposits from landowners who have enjoyed early royalties or received some of the first upfront contracts for drilling on their property.
"That's good for our banks because it allows them to lend more freely into our community," he said.
Planey said the housing market also could enjoy a revenue boost, not only from new purchases but from homeowners who are able to pay off loans or mortgages more quickly.
The retail industry is already seeing returns too, Planey said. Farm equipment stores are on back order up to a year on some equipment that farmers can finally afford to replace. He said that in some cases car dealerships also are enjoying an uptick.
The Youngstown Ohio Utica & Natural Gas Conference held Wednesday at the Covelli Centre in Youngstown sold out many hotels and motels, and Trumbull County One Stop Director Bill Turner said the hospitality field can expect more of the same.
Most hotels and motels in Columbiana County are already filled to capacity on a daily basis as shale drilling workers have become frequent clients in the region, and he doesn't think they're leaving any time soon, he said.
"They'll want to eat and drink and shop, and so the food, clothing, shelter and entertainment industries should see a nice influx here," he said.
Turner said there will be an increased demand for commercial truck drivers as well, who traditionally keep retail businesses afloat.
Meanwhile, manufacturing jobs much like V&M and VAM will see an increased demand for their products, leading to a hiring increase in such jobs.
Planey said TMK-IPSCO in Brookfield has already hired on 75 more workers, and Dearing Compressor & Pump Co. in Youngstown has brought in near 20.
Drilling component manufacturers also will begin to pepper the region, Planey said, since drilling rigs run 24/7 and need component suppliers within a one-hour radius.
"I think we're going to start seeing more of that in this area. When there's more certainty in next two years about where wells and rigs will be going into the ground, then a lot of companies that sell components will open up service centers," he said.
Dearing, being one of the premier component manufacturers already in the area, may enjoy a boom in the months and years to come, adding that De-Cal Industries out of Michigan has already expanded into the Valley and Wheeling Tube has similar plans, he said.
Educational facilities are also beginning to adapt. ETI Technical College Admissions Director Diane Marstellar said they school is already rolling out a marketing campaign for their new compression technology program that will begin in January.
The eight-month program features classes that provide an introduction to the gas and oil industry and an industrial safety course sanctioned by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which requires certification for all employees in the industry.
Marstellar said title abstraction and land management courses are also in the works.
"These are just two of the programs we certainly anticipate beginning. We want to be part of this new training," she said.
Marstellar said the new programs also will mean more educational hiring as they will need to bring on specialists to teach the new courses.
ETI Academic Director Ralph Zuzolo said the school has also begun tailoring its existing administrative assistant, business administration, real estate and paralegal programs to make those students job ready for the natural gas industry. He also pointed out another positive prospect:
"As people get hired in this industry they'll be leaving jobs that will need to be filled," he said.
Turner cautioned, though, that shale jobs will not be overly simple to obtain, and will pose challenges for those who are hired.
"What people have to realize is they're going to have to be prepared for non-traditional employment hours," he said. Turner said drill workers may be assigned to a drilling site away from home for two-week periods, during which they will have to work 14 straight 12-hour days, rewarded with two weeks off.
And the hours aren't the only thing to contend with, Turner said. The employers are seeking certain types of people.
"They are seeking people with strong soft skills, which are essentially manners," he said, adding, "It's imperative that they pass the drug test."
All who spoke said they are expecting the promised boom to hit full force in the near future and are planning for it.
Planey said those present at the YOUNG expo Wednesday see the Valley's potential to meet the industry's needs.
"All the companies we had walked out thinking they've already seen the opportunities or they believe it's coming down the road, and they are in a position to capitalize on it," he said.