Utica Shale Boosts Columbiana County’s Economic Future
Utica Shale development has contributed to an economic renaissance in eastern Ohio. With an influx of investment totaling over $18 billion attributed due to increased oil and gas development, unemployment rates continue to fall, while sales tax revenues continue their upward trajectory.
Columbiana County is currently the third most permitted county atop the Utica Shale. In addition to oil and natural gas production, a gas processing facility operated by Utica East Ohio in Kensington is expanding to meet the needs of companies operating in the region. Thanks to this activity, Columbiana County is emerging from the latest economic downturn and turning back into the prosperous county it once was.
In 2010, unemployment in the county was 15 percent. There was no discussion of Utica Shale activity, and many in the county wondered how long the recession would last. Fast forward to today, shale development is in its third year in the county and the unemployment has dropped to six percent.
At a recent forum hosted by Columbiana County’s six Chambers of Commerce, Commissioner Mike Halleck discussed the growth in sales tax his office has received in 2013, noting that collected revenues have jumped 35 percent since the previous year.
Much of this tax revenue can be attributed to the shale activity and the investment Utica East Ohio has made in the county. Construction continues at UEO’s facility, which currently processes 600 million cubic feet per day. With expanded commitments from Chesapeake, Total Gas & Power North America and Enervest — as well as new commitments from American Energy Utica LLC — Utica East Ohio will increase its processing capacity to 1.1 billion cubic feet of gas per day. According a recent press release from the group:
“These new commitments are expected to increase Utica East Ohio’s ultimate throughput by 70% over existing commitment levels.”
All of this activity has spurred other investment in the county. The Columbiana Port Authority is in the process of making over $3 million in improvements at the Wellsville Intermodal Industrial Park to accommodate oil and gas tenants like Cimbar Performance Minerals and Anchor Drilling Fluids. Marathon also announced plans to modify its existing operations at the river terminal to increase up to 24,000 barrels per day of trucking unloading capacity, as well as a terminal capable of loading up to 50,000 barrels per day.
Outside of the oil and gas industry investments, developers are building TownCenter at Firestone Farms, a multipurpose development featuring a mix of businesses, restaurants, an outdoor amphitheater and new retail establishments in Columbiana. Over in Salem, a brand new Holiday Inn hotel is being constructed.
Tad Herold, Columbiana County’s Director of Development, sees oil and gas activity as the reason much of this new investment is coming to the county.
“There’s no doubt we’ve seen some benefits from oil and gas… It’s primed the pump for development. We’ve done our best to capture what has happened so far, but we want to get ourselves ready to move.”
Utica Shale development has definitely primed the pump for economic development in Columbiana County. Without shale development, who knows where this county would stand? One thing is for sure, though: the region’s economic future would surely not be as bright is it is today without the Utica Shale.