Utica Shale Makes Ohio’s Appalachia Region Nation’s Fifth Fastest Growing Economy
Ohio’s prolific Utica Shale exploration and production has transformed one of the most economically depressed areas in the Appalachia Region – Belmont, Marshall and Ohio counties – into the fifth fastest growing economy in the nation, according to new statistics by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The data show that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of finished goods and services produced among the Wheeling Metropolitan Statistical Area grew by 9.5 percent from 2013 to 2014, only to be preceded by San Angelo, Texas, Midland, Texas, Lake Greeley, Colo. And Lake Charles, L.a. Shale development accounted for the vast majority of the economic growth in the Wheeling Metropolitan Statistical Area, an area which included some of the best Utica wells. That doesn’t even take into account upcoming spending slated for the region, including a new $5.7 billion ethane cracker plant in Belmont County!
This news is driving elected officials from across party lines to express their excitement. Senator Lou Gentile (D), who represents the 30th District of Ohio, stated:
“I think it’s tremendous. I’m going to work diligently to keep pushing this forward to see that this becomes reality, and this will have a regional economic impact.”
Shale development has driven economic development in southeast Ohio’s river communities in ways that folks would never have dreamed of a decade ago. A simple drive into St. Clairsville, Ohio tells the story of how a town can be changed practically overnight. Oil and gas development has boosted hotels, retail stores, and restaurants in that area. Three more additional hotels are slated for construction around the Ohio Valley Mall and Plaza as well. Retail and service companies, like these new stores bring regional impacts and opportunities for jobs of all shapes and sizes. Even a Starbucks, has been built, prompting the Belmont County Commissioners to see nothing but positive economic impacts from all that’s going on. As Belmont County Commissioner Mark Thomas said,
“The trickle-down effect of people going out to shop is huge in terms of creating new development and tax revenue is huge.”
Hotels and temporary housing are not the only good news, either. As many folks are locating to Ohio or landing jobs which have created the need for permanent housing in the area as well, debunking a notion that shale related jobs are not going to local workers. As Belmont County Commissioner Mark Thomas said,
“There is now work on a new subdivision south of the Belmont Hills Country Club. We are going to need housing for short-term construction workers. But we are also going to see more permanent housing for people who may move into the area for long-term careers.”
Speaking of permanent infrastructure, let’s not forget as back to school season kicks off here in Ohio, students and teachers may notice new science labs, school buildings, and scholarship programs. Each of these improvements are a result of the significant investment that Ohio’s oil and natural gas industry has devoted to local schools—not only by way of their substantial contribution to the local tax base but also through new apprentice and training programs.
We certainly agree with Senator Gentile that this news is absolutely “tremendous.”