Local leaders map economic development

ST. CLAIRSVILLE-State Rep. Andy Thompson (R-Marietta) convened a series of roundtable discussions on economic development on Friday in Carroll, Harrison and Belmont counties. Here, facilitated by the Belmont County Port Authority, 50 representatives from local businesses, governments, energy companies, regional organizations and state agencies held an open forum at the Belmont Hills Country Club.

Participants talked about their sector’s particular adjustments, accomplishments, concerns and challenges especially with regard to the oil and gas industries’ effects. Shawn Bennett, field director for Energy In Depth and who attended all three of the events, called the series “a great snapshot of how the oil and gas industry is affecting the area.”

Rick Frio, CEO of MPR Supply Chain Solutions in Bellaire, recognized several local and state agencies that have assisted MPR through steps toward approval for adding a rail transport facility and expanding the business. Others agreed that progress and growth will come through public and private sector cooperation and support.

Barnesville is one town that has seen an upswing in job creation and retail activity related to the oil and gas presence. The village also signed a lease contract with Antero Resources for $6 million, which will allow for some breathing room on infrastructure expenses and other improvements.

“We’re very fortunate,” says Mayor Ron Bischof. He and Bill Steedle of Belmont Dodge both commented on these positive aspects of growth. Present and future concerns they mentioned lie with traffic and road repairs.

Regarding traffic, Lloyd MacAdam and Dave Schafer of the Ohio Department of Transportation’s District 11 say that they are working on being “good neighbors” with the oil and gas industry. ODOT recognizes some of the issues with the larger vehicles and increased traffic through small towns, and the agency is helping places like Barnesville accommodate. MacAdam, District 11 deputy director, noted that Schafer’s crews kept roads clear throughout the winter to ensure timely arrival of equipment and supplies for wells and pipe lines.

Thompson was pleased with the turnouts and discussions from Friday’s forums. His office will be reviewing, summarizing and distributing the notes from the sessions to participants. His goal was to get local perspectives on how things are going and hear suggestions on improvements.

“We want all the best ideas on the table from both sides of the aisle,” Thompson says. “This is a great opportunity to do that.”

Valenti can be reached at gvalenti@timesleaderonline.com