Shifting Gears

MONROE COUNTY is experiencing a makeover of its economic landscape. It is transitioning from industrial to gas and oil. The move is one that harbors much potential for a county that needs an infusion of positive economic news.

Aluminum operations at Ormet Corp. have been shut down for months, due to electric rates dictated by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. Ormet’s future is in doubt, although State Rep. Jack Cera is pushing legislation that may lead to its reopening.

Ormet has meant a great deal to the viability of Monroe County. Its closing is an obvious major setback to the county’s well-being.

Even at that, Monroe County’s outlook is taking on a brighter looks thanks to the oil and gas boom.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Oil and Gas Resources reports that Monroe County had eight producing Utica Shale wells during the third quarter of 2013. That is just scratching the surface of what is developing throughout the county.

More than 60 drilling permits have been issued in the county. Many other wells have been drilled and ready for production, just waiting for the completion of infrastructure.

While Ormet is not making aluminum, its property is proving bountiful as Magnum Hunter Resources is producing about 11.7 million cubic feet of natural gas daily from company-owned property directly across Ohio 7 from the Hannibal plant.

Monroe County brought in more than $160,000 in sales tax revenue, up more than 10 percent from November 2012. With Ormet’s plight, such numbers speak volumes of the impact drilling is having on the Monroe County economy.

Ormet continues to liquidate its inventory, as the company recently sold 2,208 metric tons of alumina. Previously, it sold $3 million worth of copper rods; sold additional alumina for $281 per metric ton; and sold 51,841 metric tons of carbon anodes.

Such a sell-off doesn’t yield much hope for Ormet’s reopening. That is unfortunate, as nearly 1,000 workers have lost good-paying jobs.

For Monroe County to realize its full economic potential, Ormet remains a key player. But should its closing be permanent, oil and gas drilling will not only keep the county’s coffers afloat, but may help raise them to a healthy level.