Federal Energy Working Group tours Belmont College
Appalachia Forward conference today
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont College will be hosting the Third Annual Appalachia Forward conference today, with federal officials expected to announce a new initiative to support energy communities and workers in the Appalachian region of Ohio.
The guest list today included the Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization, or Energy Communities IWG — an entity with the federal Department of Energy. Appalachian Regional Commission Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin, U.S. Economic Development Administration Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Affairs Craig Buerstatte and Energy Communities IWG Executive Director Brian Anderson also will be in attendance.
In preparation, college officials gave a tour of current programs when several contractors with Energy Communities IWG stopped by Tuesday afternoon.
Contractor Danielle Jones said they were interested in what the college offers.
“We’re hoping to kind of see the college and some of the programs that they offer in terms of workforce development, but our focus is energy communities, to see the impact the programs have,” she said.
Heather Davis, assistant vice president of academic affairs, and Ed Mowrer, operations manager of the Energy Institute, directed the tour.
“We’re very appreciative of the energy community,” Mowrer said, adding the area has roots as a “coal community” and coal remains a strong industry in the area, even though the oil and gas industry is on the rise. “We’re a very power-oriented area. We have a lot of coal-fired power plants, an increasing amount of gas-fired power plants, we even have the world’s first purpose-built hydrogen power plant.”
He referred to the Long Ridge Energy Terminal along the Ohio River in Monroe County.
“One local coal-fired power plant hired our whole graduating class a couple of years ago,” he said. “Our students are in great demand. They have no trouble getting jobs.”
Mowrer said the demands of the industry have spurred the college to upgrade its equipment to train students in the use of technology. He took the guests through the programmable logic controllers laboratory and demonstrated how the students craft circuit boards.
“When the oil and gas industry came in, they jumped a whole level of technology from what was being done here forever in the ’50s and ’60s. They were going to leapfrog technology, so we had to leapfrog with them,” he said.
Mowrer said the college trains students for a wide variety of careers, since the oil and gas industry has created “spinoff” industries. He mentioned a potential ethane cracker plant that has been long anticipated in the Dilles Bottom area along Ohio 7. Another significant industry coming to the state is an Intel chip plant. Mowrer said the college is positioned to train students in support systems such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning to operate the control rooms.
He also pointed out energy efficiency classes and ways to incorporate solar and wind generated power into operations.
“Every gas well, every measurement site, every decompression station are powered by solar panels after they finish the well,” Mowrer said.
Scott Richards, commercial driver’s license training manager, described the CDL classroom and the process of giving hands-on experience and training for students seeking a permit to drive. He said the demand for drivers is high.
“Most of my students are employed as soon as they’re done,” Richards said.
Davis added that the college works with local entities such as the Department of Job and Family Services. The class has a new full-time faculty member and has recently purchased two more trucks for the students to work with.
Davis also pointed out the massage therapy workroom and other activities.