Residents: Shale will bring jobs

WHEELING – By manufacturing the 6,000-pound “cattle stop” for the Williams Partners natural gas processing plant at Fort Beeler, Brett Francis and Michael Siebieda are building their business in South Wheeling.

Operating Arrowsmith Fabrication out of a once-vacant building on Wood Street, Wheeling residents Francis and Siebieda are welding, fabricating and cutting their way into the Marcellus and Utica shale boom that is rushing through Ohio and West Virginia.

“We feel oil and gas is going to be our bread and butter in the future,” said Siebieda, explaining the “cattle stop” is a large steel device that Williams will place near the entrance to the Fort Beeler plant to keep animals out of harm’s way. “These operations are mostly out on farms, so they want to keep the cattle out of there.”

As Siebieda and Francis perform work for Williams – and try to receive more jobs from additional oil and gas companies – they are running a new business they know would probably not exist without the burgeoning shale rush.

A new survey by Huntington Bank shows that about 75 percent of West Virginia residents believe there will be more jobs and companies coming to the state because of the opportunities shale presents. These jobs could involve welding and machining in the line of Arrowsmith, or they could involve trucking, housing, chemical supply or a number of other areas.

“Huntington commissioned the survey by an independent research firm because we are committed to helping our customers understand the economy in our markets,” said Steve Steinour, chairman, president and chief executive officer at Huntington. “While many inside and outside of the energy industry are predicting growth, we wanted to find out how the residents of our markets perceive the potential economic impact of the industry on their communities.”

Columbus, Ohio-based Huntington maintains banking offices in Wheeling, Weirton, Martins Ferry, St. Clairsville, Shadyside, Bridgeport, Tiltonsville, Steubenville, Toronto and Cadiz.

In Ohio, 58 percent of those Huntington surveyed believed the oil and gas industry would bring more business and growth to the Buckeye State. Those in Western Pennsylvania also responded favorably when asked if they expected more economic activity due to shale drilling, as 79 percent there said they expected “significant opportunity.”

“Many of these industrial areas have been known as the Rust Belt,” added Steinour. “With manufacturing growing again and aggregate employment in these areas outpacing the national economic recovery, we prefer to call this swath of the country the ‘Recovery Belt.'”

With some industry observers predicting hundreds of thousands of jobs will be created by shale drilling over the next 10 years, Huntington has announced plans to expand commercial banking services for the energy sector across its markets.

The Arrowsmith shop is an example of one of the many service businesses being created in the local area because the natural gas and oil extraction is taking place. Siebieda said he and Francis also are in contact with companies such as MarkWest Energy for potential work.

“We prefer to hire services from local vendors and provide support to develop skills and services to address our needs … as well as those needs of the communities near our operations,” said Williams Partners spokesman Scott Carney.