BOARDMAN - Even though eastern Ohio didn't land Shell Oil's cracker plant, the Mahoning Valley is easily within range to benefit from the $2.7 billion operation, the state's top economic development official said Thursday.
''Many of those chemicals don't travel very well, so they're going to have to build plants around the cracker,'' Mark Kvamme said of raw products that will come from the plant Shell plans to build in Monaca, Pa., less than 50 miles from the Valley. ''We see a huge opportunity in the petrochemical business, plastic business, also manufacturing, within about 100 miles of the plant.''
Shell's refinery-type plant will process ethane from ''wet'' natural gas taken from the Marcellus Shale in eastern Ohio and nearby states to make ethylene, one of the key ingredients in a wide range of common products, including plastics, tires and antifreeze.
Kvamme focused on three major trends - energy, manufacturing and workforce development.
The shale gas energy boom already has produced a well not far from the Valley that Chesapeake calls its most profitable well ever, he said.
He noted Ford Motor Co., GE and others have brought manufacturing jobs back from other countries because automation has reduced the cost of labor to the point where shipping the products has become a more important cost factor.
Dr. Rashid Abdu, senior surgeon and emeritus director of surgical education at St. Elizabeth Health Center and founder of the Joanie Abdu Breast Cancer Care Center in honor of his late wife, received the William G. Lyden Jr. Spirit of the Valley award;
Richard Dearing, president of Dearing Compressor & Pump Co., and Rebecca Wall, company vice president, received the Donald Cagigas Spirit of the Chamber award;
Patrick Ungaro, Liberty administrator and former Youngstown mayor, received the Chairwoman's Political Achievement award. He helped to keep the steel mill in 1984 that now is the thriving V&M Star, and led efforts to form the Salt Springs Road Industrial Park that continues to attract employers.
But he cautioned the economic growth must be nurtured with good government and a trained work force.
''We want JobsOhio to figure out how to partner with business. We don't want to impede business,'' he said.
Kvamme, who grew up in the high-tech Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay area, quoted Apple's chief Steve Jobs as a guide in his new duties as president of JobsOhio.
Reading an advertisement text given by Jobs during one of Apple's product launches, Kvamme said the innovator, who died last year of pancreatic cancer at 56, stressed the importance of thinking differently.
"Let's be crazy. Let's change things in northeast Ohio," he said.
With a $900 million investment Chesapeake Energy has announced for natural gas processing plants, plus a pipeline, in Columbiana and Harrison counties, plus V&M mills in Youngstown and other energy investments, eastern Ohio stands to benefit from billions in new manufacturing operations, chamber leader Thomas Humphries said.
He credited area business and political leaders for fast responses to help secure investments.
He cited the $13.2 million plant by Houston energy manufacturer Exterran as an example of cooperation.
The company originally was looking at a North Jackson site but also was considering a Pennsylvania location, he said.
After soil tests showed the plant couldn't be built in North Jackson, Humphries said calls were made to Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone for a site the company wound up taking in the Salt Springs Road Industrial Park in Youngstown.
Other calls were made to Kvamme's state agency to sweeten the offering by another six figures, he said.
The company broke ground at the end of February bringing at least 103 jobs, and possibly more than 300 jobs in coming years.