CANFIELD - With the hope of a booming gas and oil industry in the Mahoning Valley, local union members, business leaders and oil company representatives gathered Thursday in a closed-door session to get a jump start on what is expected.
Pete MacKenzie, vice president of operations for the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, said events like the one Thursday are a good way to find the people the drilling companies will need.
''Chesapeake is ramping up operations and they need to find qualified contractors and workers,'' MacKenzie said. ''I think it is important for everybody. It's a new activity in areas that have not seen the oil and gas industry.''
The forum put business and potential workers on the same page, said Butch Taylor, business manager for Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 396, who sponsored the event.
''This business is so new and we need to learn how to network and work with one another,'' said Vince Bevacqua, executive vice president of Shale Comm. ''This is the time to get ready and prepare. We need to show them we're ready for these jobs.''
Bevacqua called the shale boom the Valley's second chance, and spoke on the industry's expected longevity.
''This is not going to be a quick blip. It will provide jobs for my kids and grandkids, and that's very exciting to me,'' he said.
''We know the quality of the work force here, the work ethic,'' Bevacqua said. ''We need to make sure we put our best face on for these companies.''
Representatives with VEC Inc. of Girard likewise were expressing their excitement.
''We've been in the industry for 40 years, and it's nice to have it come home,'' said Chris Jaskiewicz, senior vice president and COO. ''We're going to have Ohio workers, Youngstown and Warren workers. This is going to provide more opportunity than the steal industry ever could.''
Others in attendance had interest in not only the direct involvement of their business in oil and gas drilling, but also the widespread effect it will have.
''This is important because it brings together people with like thoughts,'' said Grayer Barker of Surfacing, a green company that specializes in crop inputs and organic fertilizers as well as land soil romanticized. ''We see it as an opportunity to offer green products and help companies like Chesapeake with the push back they may receive with soil contamination (concerns).''
''A skilled work force is critical to the success of this economic boom. I have no doubt that organizations like the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 396 along with our technical schools, community colleges and four-year universities throughout the district will make sure this skilled work force is up to the challenge," said U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, who attended Thursday's event.
''The Energy Networking Forum is a great opportunity for businesses, organizations and educators to meet face to face with oil and gas industry representatives and make sure that the job training and work force in the Mahoning Valley are in step with employment needs in the industry,'' said U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, who attended the more than two-hour event at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center.