While it’s too early to know what the shale boom will bring to Columbiana County, there are things local businesses can do to prepare.
Todd Alexander, vice president of the East Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, spoke Friday morning to membership of the Columbiana Chamber of Commerce about what he learned on a trip to central Pennsylvania to explore how businesses are developing around gas drilling.
He went to Lock Haven, Williamsport and Towanda. These three communities are all at different levels of shale development.
“Things are going to come fairly quickly. You want to have a plan,” Alexander said.
Companies should not immediately buy a lot of material because it could be some time before the shale becomes really active, he said. The key is having knowledge of suppliers and how long it will take to get items delivered.
“These companies have very specific needs. You won’t get very many chances if you tell them no,” Alexander said.
Estimates are that shale development in Pennsylvania is about six years ahead of Ohio, he said.
In Williamsport, the local chamber was able to identify 60 to 70 area businesses directly related to shale, Alexander said. Williamsport serves more as a supply city for the industry.
Williamsport became a supply city because of its proximity to Interstate 80, the Susquehanna River and rail access.
“An aerial shot of East Liverpool looked almost exactly the same with river, rail and highway access,” Alexander said.
Columbiana also has access to rail and highway and is much closer to the center of the state and that may be a benefit, he said.
Towanda was close to a large number of wells and drilling. You could see camping trailers everywhere in the city, he said.
“There was one campground outside of town that used to be a seasonal campground that is now open year-round that is full of people working in the industry,” Alexander said.
“Well permits are one of the lead indicators [for development],” Alexander said.
There have been a sizable number of drilling permits issued in Columbiana County, and four of the 21 drilling rigs in Ohio are in the county, he said.
The second part of development after the permits and drilling will come with the pipeline development that remains about three years away, said Columbiana Commissioner John Payne.
Payne is trying to re-form the Columbiana County Progress Council. The council was formed when the county was trying to attract a Saturn automotive plant to the county.
The group’s goal is to get business people throughout the county working together on business development related to shale, Payne said.
Having Alexander speak was part of the chamber’s efforts to educate its members and leadership about what is going on in the oil and gas industry, said Terry McCoy, chairman of the Columbiana chamber’s business development committee.