ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Belmont County Commissioners answered the call of local union workers wanting a piece of the action from jobs being created locally by the drilling for gas in the Marcellus and Utica shale.
Previously, commissioners were asked to support union workers seeking jobs associated with the gas drilling boom that has begun to reach the Ohio Valley. According to local union representatives, many aspects of the work being conducted by gas and oil drilling companies can be performed by local workers, but oftentimes these companies are bringing subcontractors from out of state to handle these jobs.
During Wednesday's meeting of the Belmont County Commissioners, the board adopted a resolution supporting the utilization of local workers in the construction of pipelines, drilling and processing of natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale.
Although not an enforceable action, the resolution provides a vow of support from the local government as the oil and gas drilling boom continues in the region.
"On behalf of all working families in Belmont County, I wanted to be here to thank you for adopting this resolution and showing your support for local workers," said Joe Miller, union representative with Carpenters Local No. 186. "This is the kind of leadership we need here in Belmont County. Hopefully the surrounding counties will take your lead on this issue and show their support, as well.
"We want to say to the drilling companies, 'yes, we're glad you're here, but if you're extracting $500 billion in resources from our land, we'd like for you to use our workforce - one that's highly trained and ready to go. We don't need to have construction workers coming from Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana."
According to the resolution, the board requests that companies engaged in the drilling for natural gas notify the commissioners should a lack of qualified contractors or workers exist and give county officials "the opportunity to assist in providing a skilled labor force to the fullest extent possible."
A recent study by the Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program projects that Marcellus and Utica shale development could help create and support 200,000 jobs over the next five years. Billions of dollars are expected to be spent on construction related to drilling, officials noted.
"Oil and gas drilling is going to be the next big boom for Ohio and particularly for our area," said Commissioner Ginny Favede. "We're more than willing to be an advocate for our local workers when it comes to securing jobs related to this industry that is expanding in our county."
Commissioners said employment of residents from the local area for drilling, transporting and processing the gas from Marcellus and Utica shale could have a very positive impact on the area's rate of employment.
"Local workers bring the money back home instead of spending it elsewhere," said Commissioner Matt Coffland, noting that hiring local workers for these jobs will help stimulate the local economy.
"We're very pleased to pass this resolution," said Commissioner Chuck Probst. "We've always supported local workers and local families."
Probst noted that the county had passed a similar resolution in the past when the steel crisis was at its pinnacle, as local steelworkers feared for the future of their jobs and the local economy when cheap foreign-made steel was being dumped into the domestic market. The board took action to support local union steelworkers and encouraged residents to buy American.
"We're just a small piece in the world economy, but what this resolution says is that we'll be here to support our workers in any way we can," said Probst.
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