AFTER attending the respective Martins Ferry and Bellaire chamber of commerce luncheons this past week, I came away with a common thread from each session.
"Be ready," "It is coming" and "It will be here for a long time."
It is the shale oil and gas drilling industry, already beginning to make its presence felt in varying degrees throughout the Ohio Valley. The drilling craze, however, has just scratched the surface on its eventual impact.
Belmont County commissioners and Joe Barone of Shaledirectories.com delivered informative presentations to both chambers. The message that came through loud and clear at Ferry and Bellaire was that the oil and gas drilling is going to completely revitalize the economic pulse of Belmont County.
It is obvious that thousands of well-paying jobs are needed to make the drilling industry operate efficiently. In addition, the spinoff business also offers no bounds.
The new influx of workers will require places to live, food to eat, banks to utilize, stores to shop at, etc. The retail business will experience a large and extended boom. More people yields more consumers.
The shale business will also likely have a profound effect on the population figures in Eastern Ohio.
Belmont County now has less than 70,000 residents. One projection aired by a county official Thursday at the Bellaire Chamber predicted the Belmont County population swelling to more than 100,000 by the year 2014. That is massive growth in a short amount of time.
Such numbers would be sweet news to local schools, as it may reverse their downward enrollment spiral. More students will mean more state monies, resulting in increased educational opportunities.
The thrust of the chamber meetings noted that drilling companies demand quality and timely service at a fair price. To make that happen, local businesses need to make themselves visible and accessible.
Barone stressed the importance of websites and the benefits they bring to a respective business looking to land a piece of the shale drilling money pie. Commissioners also emphasized the need for a Smartphone to connect by the industry and businesses.
One sidelight of the shale chamber meetings was the teaser made by commissioners that four major Belmont County announcements would be forthcoming in the next few months. They did not indicate what the nature of the good news was but they did pinpoint the locations, those being Barnesville, Bellaire, Martins Ferry and St. Clairsville.
Commissioners and Barone earlier visited the Barnesville Chamber and will, in the near future, do the same in Shadyside and Bridgeport. They are weaving a countywide shell-drilling network through chamber unification. When local chambers benefit, their respective members also benefit.
The shale drilling business is an economic tidal wave poised to saturate the Ohio Valley. The Belmont County commissioners and Barone are attempting to make certain everyone is prepared to catch that wave.
MUCH HAS been written this past week about Ben Taylor in the wake of his death last Sunday. He is deserving of every word of praise that came his way.
Ben has been chronicled as a special coach. That he was. I have repeatedly said that Ben was the best softball coach I have known. He had no peers when it came to coaching on the diamond. He was legendary for his work ethic and knowledge, often sleeping overnight in his car in order to scout teams.
He was a visionary and pioneer, reflected by the leagues he founded.
Girls softball is booming in the Ohio Valley. That is a direct tribute to the work and passion exuded by Ben.
Most people know Ben for his coaching exploits, far too numerous to mention here. I was one of the fortunate ones who had a long and enjoyable friendship with him. His passion for softball only took a backseat to his love for his family and life in general. Ben made the most of every minute.
His three children, Amy, Alyson and Benny were all tremendous athletes. They didn't have the greatest physical talent in the world, but Coach Ben help to mold them into the smartest and headiest players possible. They were coaches on the field.
What else would you expect with Coach Ben doing the teaching?
A STUDY released this past week revealed that only 11 percent of the nation believes the U.S. Congress is doing a good job. I am not in that 11 percentile. Partisan politics is one of my pet peeves.
TIM TEBOW took the NFL world by storm this year. But he is far from a refined product. Look for a major upgrade next season as he will become the personal project of John Elway. The Broncos' boss is one of the best, if not the greatest, NFL quarterback. Elway will obviously have a major positive impact on Tebow in the off-season.
SPEAKING OF the NFL, we are down to the final four. I am predicting an all Harbaugh Super Bowl. I like the Ravens, coached by John Harbaugh, to down the Patriots in New England today while Jim Harbaugh's 49ers will vanquish my beloved Giants.
EDDIE GEORGE was a great running backs in both college and the NFL. Now the Ohio State Heisman Trophy winner is displaying more of his diverse talents. George is branching out to the theatrical ranks. The former Tennessee Titan star is currently playing Julius Caesar at the Nashville Shakespeare Festival at Belmont University. The event runs through Jan. 29. It is not George's first taste in the acting realm. He made his debut in a 2007 play at Belcourt Theatre as he performed in the Columbus' King Arts Complex in the play Topdog/Underdog.
THE COAT Closet of Belmont County will close for the season Jan. 30. The Bellaire-based charitable organization enjoyed another productive season, giving out 810 coats to needy individuals. It will reopen Sept. 29. Director Margaret Paolucci thanks all those who helped the closet in any fashion.
THE CITY of Wheeling can ill afford to lose the Nailers. The Friendly City is trying to revitalize the downtown business district. The Capitol has enjoyed a rebirth and WesBanco is the Cadillac of local arenas. But to pull the Nailers out of the facility would be a major black eye for the city. If you are trying to build for the future, losing a professional hockey team places you on thin ice.
Kapral may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org