VIENNA - The Western Reserve Port Authority, along with officials throughout the Mahoning Valley, must be ready to attract employers tied to the area's budding natural gas industry, two real estate experts said Monday.
"It's the holy grail - spinoff jobs if we can get a processing or a cracker plant," Dan Crouse of commercial real estate firm Routh-Hurlbert, told Port Authority members at their monthly meeting at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.
Crouse and Chuck Joseph, who said they've been meeting with other area leaders, told board members the opportunity is similar to the steel industry more than 100 years ago, when steel slitting and other service plants located in the area to be close to giant steel mills.
The Mahoning Valley offers many resources, officials said.
The Port Authority could offer financial help, such as purchasing property, then leasing it so an employer could save on sales tax, as well as arranging bond funding in unlimited quantities for what Crouse called "extremely good companies."
The area has large divided highways like state Route 11, which Crouse said the state has agreed to make available, railroad beds, the bike trail and other avenues that could be leased to lay pipelines.
n other action
Also Monday, the Western Reserve Port Authority:
Announced that the airport is being considered for the state's first airline revenue guarantee program. The state would loan the airport as much as $3 million for as long as two years. The airport, which is talking with Silver Airways about flights to Washington-Dulles airport in Washington, D.C., would repay only what an airline drew down to maintain flights;
Reduced rent by $139,050 that Winner Aviation pays in its five-year operating agreement to help it maintain two aircraft hangers;
Assigned St. Louis-based Airport Advertising Inc. advertising agreement at the terminal to local Rubenstein and Associates.
"They're very fast at laying a pipeline. They'd tear up an area and have it put back into service in relatively short period of time," he said.
Crouse said the area also has abundant water due to numerous lakes built by the steel industry to ensure a steady supply of water to cool their mills.
He said 200-plus acres at the former U.S. Steel site in McDonald has many attributes needed for a processing plant but that other sites also could be used.
Easements could help keep heavy truck traffic from destroying small roads, Joseph said. He noted an oil company that would have to travel on county roads to a potential drilling site.
However, an abandoned railroad easement runs near the property near a main highway.
"With an easement, they can come off the main highway, which can handle heavy loads, then come down the railroad bed to the site," he said.
The area's Utica / Point Pleasant natural gas shale formation already has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into the area, first from courthouse land searches, then for property owners to lease their land to drillers, they noted.
But Joseph said landowners won't see significant royalties until something is sold, which requires getting the raw gas and oil to gas separation plants to produce ethane, butane and other commercial products.
The "midstream" part of the process would involve installing and operating pipelines to transport the gas and oil from wells to the separation plants.