WHILE THE local steel industry is struggling, some of that economic fallout can be substantially filled by Marcellus and Utica shale gas drilling.
The gas drilling boom is beginning to make its impact felt in the Ohio Valley. It appears to have a high ceiling for growth.
With that said, local workers need to be the beneficiaries of such a boom. To help ensure that comes to fruition, Belmont County Commissioners 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.
It only stands to reason that like coal, steel and other industrial jobs in the Ohio Valley, that a work force as skilled and prepared as we have in the area should be in line for gas-drilling related positions.
The commissioners championing that cause is a fitting touch, one that we hope pays dividends.
According to local union representatives, many aspects of the work being conducted by gas and oil drilling companies can be performed by local workers. The problem is, however, that often times these companies are bringing subcontractors from out of state to handle these jobs.
Such a move greatly reduces the local windfall Eastern Ohio could and should realize. Importing outside workers is a fly in a potential lucrative economic ointment.
The commissioners have no power to mandate local hiring. But their vow of support is one we hope falls on the receptive ears of companies associated with the gas drilling business in Eastern Ohio.
Those firms need to be good soldiers and, when all possible, hire local. It is a win-win scenario, as those companies will land quality workers while boosting the local economy in return.
A recent study 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.
Oil and gas drilling has the makings of a cash cow. That being the case, it is our hope that our local workers get their fair piece of the pie.