YOUNGSTOWN - Drill it and they will come.
That sentiment underscored global energy equipment supplier Exterran's groundbreaking Tuesday for a 103-worker factory to serve oil and gas drillers pouring into eastern Ohio's Marcellus and Utica shale fields.
Officials made it clear that more groundbreakings - and jobs - are likely as Exterran works to starts its plant in the last three months of the year.
Officials shovel the first clumps of dirt for the drilling industry plant.
"The fact that Exterran is coming to this region is a giant sign for the whole industry. Others will want to be here to supply them and be part of it," said Tom Waltermire, president of economic development group Team NEO that helped draw the Houston company to the Valley.
Regional Chamber President Thomas Humphries agreed the project will attract more energy-related companies, calling Exterran's commitment "long-term."
Exterran's decision to build a 65,000-square-foot factory on 20 acres in Youngstown's Salt Springs Road Industrial Park off North Meridian Road came from a desire to be close to its customers, a top executive said.
Daniel Schlanger, senior vice president of Extrerran's operations services, said being near its oil and gas-producing customers is efficient in time, money and quality in supplying equipment that separates, dehydrates and processes oil and gas and water at the wellhead.
The company has high hopes for its first new plant in at least 15 years. Schlanger drew comparisons to a similar operation around Houston that started with 75 workers and now has 300 in the Eagle Ford shale formation in southern Texas.
"We based this decision more on the Marcellus (Shale) and not the Utica. If we see significant growth in the Utica," such job growth is possible, he said.
The Utica, which lies below the mile-deep Marcellus, is considered more abundant in eastern Ohio than the Marcellus, which predominates in Pennsylvania and New York.
The western part of the Utica under eastern Ohio also is rich in "wet gas," which includes ethane, propane and butane that are more valuable than methane-heavy dry gas alone.
Along with oil, such "liquids are an important driver," especially considering the rising price of oil, Schlanger said.
Shell Oil, for one, is considering Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia along the Ohio River for a $1.5 billion to $2 billion cracker plant to produce ethylene by"cracking" ethane to produce ethylene, which is used to make plastics and other common products.
The company plans to start hiring both welders and other skilled workers, as well as unskilled workers, late this year, Schlanger said.
The Mahoning-Columbiana Training Association / Ohio One Stop is the center for recruiting, screening and placing of new workers. Exterran also said it will work closely with local technical schools to meet its need for welders.
Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor said Exterran will find the area is "full of hard-working people eager to get back to work."
Taylor filled in for Gov. John Kasich, who went to Chardon following the high school shootings.
Besides the factory, Exterran's plans include an office building to be constructed on the property once owned by LaFarge.
Besides providing the land, Youngstown granted a 10-year, 75-percent tax abatement on real property improvements.
Exterran has locations in 30 countries and 10,000 employees, according to its website. It has locations in 20 states, including Summerfield in Ohio, and three in Pennsylvania, in Wexford, Ind., and Williamsport.