Appalachian Basin

The Tale of Two Mansfields

The shale gas plays occurring in Ohio and Pennsylvania have a few differences, the most obvious being the oil and wet gas rich Utica Shale versus the largely dry gas of the Marcellus.  Both also present potentially huge opportunities for economic development, job creation and energy independence for our nation. Accordingly, one would expect Mansfield, Ohio (county seat of Richland County, which had a population of 124,475 in 2010) and Mansfield, Pennsylvania (located in Tioga County, which had a population of 41,981 in 2010) to make for almost mirror images of each other, yet as we sat down together awhile back, we realized there was a world of difference in more than just the makeup of natural resources below our feet.

Mansfield, Ohio, is obviously the big sister in the relationship, given the size of the counties, so one might naturally expect it to demonstrate more horsepower, but if that’s correct they must be using the Old Gray Mare.  Two communities with the same name and similar opportunities, couldn’t be experiencing a more different reality. So why is it that Mansfield, Pennsylvania is thriving while Mansfield, Ohio is struggling to keep businesses open?  Read on to see a comparison of these two communities.

Anne Looks at Mansfield, Ohio’s Media Biases Against Oil and Natural Gas Development

With articles and letters to the editor reading “Mansfield residents oppose fracking”, “Increase in fracking raises concerns”, and “Find out real dangers of fracking, and do something”, it doesn’t seem like there is much of a conversation about shale development happening in Mansfield, Ohio.  The town I’ve called home my entire life has been plagued with unemployment and disappointment since manufacturing left.

Mansfield was once a vital part of the Midwest’s manufacturing renaissance.  Companies including Westinghouse Electric Corporation, Tappan Stove Company, Mansfield Tire & Rubber Company, and Ohio Brass Company, started by my Great Great Uncle, all made Mansfield their home.  Like most cities in the Rustbelt, these companies left.  Some did survive for a while, including General Motors.

Many family friends worked for GM, until it filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009 and left Mansfield in 2010.  Manufacturing is no longer the largest employer, however.  No, today, Mansfield’s largest employer is the hospital.  The loss of those manufacturing jobs resulted, in turn, in many smaller businesses having to shut down.  Downtown Mansfield and that part of the city previously known as the “Miracle Mile” might well now be described as “the miracle that was.”

One would think a town in desperate need of economic revitalization would embrace, or at least talk about, an industry poised to bring economic opportunities to families around the community.   Instead, the local paper  has taken a biased tone and has seemingly chosen to focus its efforts on  rumors regarding shale development and the oil and gas industry.

Multiple letters have warned residents of water contamination because of hydraulic fracturing, but we have disproved that time and time again.  Yet, these claims keeps popping back up faster than prairie dogs sounding the alarm about intruders.  Isn’t this what it’s all about, really, for the opposition – fighting change, fighting supposed intruders who might actually help bring Mansfield back?  Letters claim there is not enough or no regulation on the oil and gas industries, but as we’ve covered before that’s blatantly untrue.  Some letters complain shale development won’t actually help Americans with their energy needs, but we’ve already seen a boost in manufacturing , $250 billion in savings for utility customers nationwide, and a world-leading reduction in carbon dioxide emissions because of shale development.

However, despite all of this, even the Mayor of Mansfield has turned his back on an industry already bringing opportunity to eastern Ohio.  He seems to have it out  for development and is supporting the City Council’s efforts to give city officials the power to vote down future development.

This is very similar to what our EID Marcellus team has seen occur in Binghamton, New York. There a lame-duck City Council, at their last meeting of 2011, and last meeting ever for five of the seven members, voted to approve a natural gas moratorium. Local businesses like the Holiday Inn, which are thriving, thanks to Marcellus Shale development over the border, spoke at a recent meeting to urge the city to reject the ill-fated moratorium that will stymy local businesses.

Instead, the council followed the very anti-shale gas agenda of Mayor Matt Ryan and now faces a lawsuit from several local organizations and businesses.

“The legal wrangling will center on whether or not the city’s ban was a land use law or a police action meant to protect the city’s drinking water supply. Ryan and company will have to prove the ban was a police action and not a land use law—a very dicey proposition and not one that’s likely to hold up in court. Meanwhile, the legal bills will start piling up for city taxpayers. Thanks Matt!” (Marcellus Drilling News, May 31, 2012)

A lawsuit or putting up a “closed for business sign” is not something our city can afford to do. We’re already struggling. With an unemployment rate of 7.9%, higher than the state of Ohio, it is imperative the tone changes and changes quickly in Mansfield.  I want to see the city where I grew up flourish once again, especially when I look to Mansfield, Pennsylvania and see such progress there.

Nicole Delves Into Mansfield, PA’s Economic Revitalization Thanks to Marcellus Shale

Unlike Anne, I didn’t grow up in Mansfield, but just down the road in Williamsport, and I have quite a few family members who still call Tioga County home. It’s always been one of my favorite places to visit. I remember my grandmother taking me on the Tioga Central Railroad and we would always stop at the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon on our way home from visiting family in Galeton.

When I looked at colleges in 2003-04, Mansfield University was high on my list of schools to visit. One of the things I remember vividly was the lack of things to do in town. When I visit now, I’m happy to see a lot has changed in the almost 10 years since I considered moving there. According to the Mansfield Chamber of Commerce, this, is in large part, due to the increased opportunities created by the Marcellus Shale, which collectively has replaced Mansfield University and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) as the largest employer:

“The most predominant industry in the area today is Marcellus Shale.”

This is precisely the opposite of what’s happening in Mansfield, Ohio, where institutional uses have become the largest employers by unfortunate default.

Just a quick glance through the Chamber’s member companies shows just how big of an impact Marcellus development is having on the business community in Mansfield, Pa. Members like Allison Crane and Rigging, Talisman Energy, and Ward Manufacturing, just to name a few, all work in some capacity in the natural gas industry.

The economic development and new businesses that have moved into this quaint, little college town are highlighted in this video by Energy Tomorrow.

Since Marcellus Shale became a household name, Mansfield University is even making changes to keep up with the growing demand for natural gas related jobs the industry is bringing. The newly created Marcellus Institute of Mansfield University recently received approval from PASSHE for two new degree programs; the Associate of Applied Science in Natural Gas Production and Services and the Bachelor of Science in Safety Management.

“We are very grateful to the Board of Governors for their support of our program initiatives as evidenced by their approval of two new academic programs,” MU Interim President Allan Golden said.  “These programs will enable Mansfield University to help meet the workforce development needs of our region while expanding career opportunities for our students.” “Mansfield University is a public liberal arts institution,” Golden said.   “We’re in the heart of Marcellus Shale, and that puts us in the unique position to continue to fulfill our mission, serving not only our area but the entire Commonwealth.”

Take a look at the following video from the Marcellus Institute and their partners the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association, PASSHE, the Northern Tier Regional Planning and Development Commission and the Southern Tioga School District.

Alternate Realities

The differences between these two areas, only a state apart, shouldn’t be so extreme.  Given the recent increase in development in Ohio, its Mansfield should not only be on par with Pennsylvania’s, but potentially even surpass it in economic development and growth. It should be right up there with Williamsport, Pennsylvania as one of the fastest growing cities in the country or Canton, Ohio which is quickly becoming the Utica Shale capitol.

Instead, we see businesses opening in Mansfield, Pennsylvania while they’re slamming their doors shut in Ohio. Take a look at this chart for a visual breakdown of these differences as reflected in employment patterns.  See a trend?  Can you hear us now, Mansfield, Ohio?

See a trend?  Can you hear us now, Mansfield, Ohio?

Mansfield, Ohio has a long way to go before it can reclaim the splendor it once had and join other businesses in rebuilding the Rust Belt. The first step is to sort through all of the misinformation circulating in the media and really start discussing a plan for improving the city, one that includes the oil and gas industry.

Perhaps it’s time Mansfield, Ohio starts looking across the border at Mansfield, Pennsylvania and the improvements there as a goal for the future.

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