Utica Shale Workforce Development Summit Convenes In Zanesville
Last week, the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies hosted a Utica Shale Workforce Development Summit to help communities prepare their workforce for the expanding oil and natural gas industry. The Summit was organized by former Congressman Zack Space, and brought together elected officials, educational institutions, economic development specialists, county agencies and industry to craft a blueprint for collaborative-community efforts as the Utica Shale begins to expand in scope, and in opportunity.
The event, held at Ohio University’s and Zane State College’s Student Center in Zanesville, drew nearly 100 attendees, and was the first-of-its-kind planning session for the area. It brought together leaders and experts on a variety of different facets to help provide guidance as to how best approach the new, exciting opportunities coming forward as we begin to increase the state’s shale development. Each table was evenly divided with representatives from different backgrounds in order to best approach growing areas of interests and concerns with developing our communities and workforce.
Before each table could begin the process of identifying the best strategies for eastern Ohio to move forward, the attendees were treated with presentations from Charlie Dixon of Ohio Oil and Gas Energy and Education Program (OOGEEP), Dave Mustine of JobsOhio and David Wilhelm, founder of Ohio Appalachia Business Council. Each presenter gave their outlook and interpretation of the importance of the Utica Shale to the region.
Charlie Dixon provided the audience with an overview of the oil and gas industry in Ohio, while detailing the impressive work the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program has done over the years in helping educate and provide expertise in developing programs that will ensure Ohioans are ready to for the new jobs created by Ohio’s oil and gas industry.
One stunning number that Mr. Dixon pointed out is the numbers of diesel mechanics positions that are currently open within a 200 mile radius of Zanesville.
I went online this morning to tidy up my presentation. 156 positions open within a 200 mile radius for diesel mechanics that is out there today.- Charlie Dixon
That statement really got people in the crowd thinking about the magnitude of shale development – and the opportunities that it presents.
Following Mr. Dixon’s insightful presentation, David Mustine, JobsOhio Managing Director specializing in the energy, chemicals and polymer sectors, provided the audience a Utica Shale update happening around Ohio. Mr. Mustine has an extensive background in the energy industry including 16 years with American Electric Power and 10 years in the oil and gas industry. During his presentation Mr. Mustine pointed out to the crowd that the Utica now has as much activity as our counterparts in West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania.
According to Baker Hughes, we have 26 triple stacked rigs operating in the state. I’ve noted that now we’re kind of caught up with West Virginia and a couple weeks ago we had one more then they did and I think that pretty significant that we are getting to that level.- David Mustine, JobsOhio
Mr. Mustine is correct that Ohio is now getting to that level. In over the past year, Ohio’s rig count has doubled showing the increasing interest in the Utica. Mr. Mustine continued to provide a promising update which noted the continuous investments midstream and downstream companies continue to make in Eastern Ohio.
Following Mr. Mustine, David Wilhelm gave the audience some items to think about as they were about to gather in their groups and brainstorm about the future. Mr. Wilhelm gave the audience a history lesson about eastern Ohio’s industries that made us into what we are today like pottery, coal and steel. But he also pointed out their faults and how this time we can get it right with shale development.
So here we have a new opportunity in the history of this region, brought about by the extraordinary discovery of Utica Shale deposits. There is nobody that is a bigger asset-based economic development person than myself. I believe in asset-based economic development. I believe in building on your own indigenous resources, your own indigenous talents. And one of the assets we have to build on, god bless us, is this extraordinary oil and gas resource. – David Wilhelm
Mr. Wilhelm provided a great message to the attendees before breaking out to their brainstorming session; Eastern Ohio needs to take this great opportunity and use it to their best advantage, whether it be used to attract chemical and plastic manufactures thanks to the feedstock provided by the liquids rich component of the Utica Shale, or investing the revenue communities gain from development into much needed infrastructure to attract new businesses.
Eastern Ohio has a chance to get it right.
After the presenters finished educating the audience, it was the audience’s turn to take what they learned and work to provide a template that can help shape eastern Ohio’s approach to properly developing our workforce and communities. Each table was given a set of note cards and was asked to address significant opportunities and issues opportunities. Following the acknowledgement of such topics, each group was then asked to help provide a solution to each of these topics until each table had their own separate ideas mapped out for the moderators.
After a full afternoon of brainstorming and problem solving, each group presented their board of findings to the moderator who will compile the data and distribute it back to the group in a couple of months. This data will provide the beginnings of a plan that will help provide eastern Ohio communities with a roadmap for the workforce and community development needs.
Once this is made available, the summit will reconvene and continue to tackle this opportunities and issues head on.
Congressman Space and the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies should be recognized and applauded for their efforts to help eastern Ohio prepare for future shale development. As the summit progresses and guidelines are prepared, communities and educational programs will be poised and focused on the proper way to embrace the new opportunities provided to the region.