YOUNGSTOWN - The future of the shale industry was the primary focus during a U.S. senator's visit to the Mahoning Valley.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, discussed the future of the U.S. economy as well as the future of energy after going on a tour of a local steel plant Friday afternoon in Youngstown.
Workers at Dearing Compressor and Pump Co. shook hands with Portman and talked with him about work at the plant as well as their schooling and backgrounds as he walked through the facility.
The tour was one of three stops the senator made Friday in northeast Ohio. Other stops included the Northeast Ohio Medical University in Rootstown and AplhaMicron in Kent.
"I'm really impressed with what I saw here today," Portman said, addressing steelworkers and members of the media. "This is a great example of a company that is investing, taking risks ... and growing. You're doing the right thing; you're producing great products."
At the forefront of Portman's speech was his concern for the nation's deficit, and he said without addressing what he called a real problem, the economy won't be able to bounce back.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, speaks with workers Friday at Dearing Compressor and Pump Co., one of several stops he made during a visit to the area. Photo by Bonnie Hazen
"The spending is really going up and up and up," he said, explaining that if the country doesn't reform spending, it is in danger of following in the footsteps of Greece, which has been dependent on international rescue loans since 2010 after going through a severe financial crisis, resulting in strict austerity measures.
"Tax reform helps companies like this one," he said.
Aside from his concerns, he highlighted some positive notes, specifically what he called a revolution in terms of energy and a great opportunity for Ohio.
"They say in the next five years here, we should have 200,000 new jobs," Portman said, which was returned with applause.
Still, he cautioned against over-regulation by the federal government with regard to fracking - the process by which natural gas is extracted from rock.
Portman said the state does a good job of ensuring fracking is done in a safe manner, but the federal government tends to take a one-size-fits-all approach, explaining that what's good for one state may not be good for another.
"Let's not make the mistakes we've made in other areas," he said. "Yes, we have regulations that are safe and sound. We have to be sure this is done in an environmentally safe way, and it will be, it has been."
"Let's continue to get the energy in the ground here in Ohio, for us, for our jobs," he said.