Ohio Gov. John Kasich, left, helps Brad Childers, Exterran chief executive officer, cut a ribbon at the company’s new plant on Salt Springs Road. At right is Tom Humphries, head of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber.
By Jamison Cocklin
Newly hired workers, sporting denim button-up shirts with their names neatly stitched on, listened to Gov. John Kasich and other public officials address a crowd of more than 100 at Exterran’s ribbon-cutting event Tuesday.
The 65,000-square-foot facility on Salt Springs Road, which cost more than $13 million to construct, is the latest rebound story for the Mahoning Valley’s manufacturing industry. Kasich, along with others at Tuesday’s event, wasted no time reminding the crowd of that.
“We’ve seen lots of activity and it goes along with what’s an incredibly indomitable spirit — there’s something about Youngstown — I don’t know if it’s in the water, I don’t know what it is,” Kasich said. “It seems like no matter how many times people get knocked down here, we just get back on our feet. It just makes such a difference, and now you’re seeing this whole Valley beginning to regenerate itself.”
Exterran, which employs 10,000 in 30 countries across the world, will fabricate production equipment at its Youngstown facility, used to treat and process oil and gas after it is extracted from the ground.
Among other things, the company provides pre-engineered equipment used for separation and natural-gas conditioning, such as filter separators that remove small solids from natural-gas systems or coolers that reduce wellhead temperatures and improve processing capabilities.
Coincidentally, Exterran opened its facility just a day after Chief Executive Magazine named Ohio as the most-improved business climate in the nation.
Since 2010, Northeast Ohio has witnessed a rush of capital investment in manufacturing related to the oil and gas industry. TMK-IPSCO spent millions in Brookfield on a facility that manufactures steel pipe for well sites and storage facilities. Both Republic Steel and U.S. Steel spent heavily in Lorain to ramp up production of seamless pipe for the industry.
Late last year, V&M’s $1.1 billion expansion in Youngstown started operations to meet increased demand for small-diameter oil and gas pipe.
Exterran is expected to create $4.9 million in new payroll for the region and benefit the regional economy by nearly $500 million and the Youngstown economy by $335 million in the coming years, according to a report released Wednesday by economic development organization Team Northeast Ohio.
The company employs 60, with plans to hire 40 in the coming months, said President and Chief Executive Brad Childers, who attended Wednesday’s ceremony. The facility began training its workers Jan. 28, and products began rolling out in April.
In the last year, Exterran sourced its labor through the Mahoning-Columbiana Training Association and Ohio One Stop. Once production is at full tilt, the facility expects to employ more than 100.
“These are jobs that will be here for a long time,” said David Mustine, managing director of JobsOhio, who spoke at Wednesday’s event. “[Exterran] is not going to be dependent on the Utica Shale or the Marcellus; they can supply products all over the world.”
Brent Code, 34, of Warren started at the facility in January as a machine operator. He said the job allowed him to work closer to his family and provided the stability he needed.
Alex Byler, 26, of Jamestown, Pa., agreed. He was traveling constantly at his previous job, and Exterran not only provides stability, but a good paying job as well, he said.
Byler is working as a welder, and he said the equipment is top of the line. He added that the training he has received will help his career in the long run.
Kasich touted the facility’s advanced manufacturing capabilities. He said it will help to diversify the workforce and provide his administration with proof that more needs to be done to educate the state’s skilled workers at trade schools and four-year programs across the state.
Childers said Exterran chose Youngstown for its workforce and proximity to the major oil and gas producers it already serves. As operations get underway here, the company will gauge market demand to determine its production levels and focus on serving nearby shale plays, Childers said.