MOUNDSVILLE - Susan Ferris, Tim Price and Randy Mick have different qualifications and backgrounds, but each of them may be able to work in the oil and gas industry.
These local residents joined at least 1,200 other people in seeking employment in November during the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia job fair in Moundsville.
Having representatives of 40 production and service companies on hand to speak with potential workers shows the industry is willing to hire locally, said Association Vice President R. Dennis Xander.
"We want to hire people from West Virginia. But what people need to understand is that if your company is drilling wells in a different state, you have to go there to work," Xander said when asked about complaints from local labor unions regarding out-of-state employees taking most of the drilling jobs.
"Just because you see vehicles with out-of-state tags doesn't mean anything. The vehicles may just be registered in that state," he added.
Ferris, a St. Clairsville resident, has been unemployed since her former employer eliminated her position this summer. She is looking to do some accounting work for a gas driller.
Chesapeake Energy "said there will be some local accounting positions," she said, and Consol Energy also said there would be some administrative and accounting positions available.
Price, a New Martinsville resident, said he is looking for more steady employment as he spoke with representatives of XTO Energy, the natural gas subsidiary of Exxon Mobil.
Moundsville resident Roger Metz also wants full employment.
"I have a lot of experience working with concrete," and drillers use it to case their wells, Metz said.
Randy Mick of Sardis is now employed by Wal-Mart, but would like to put his welding skills to work in the oil and gas business. Blake Pottmeyer drove from Parkersburg to apply for a job with a gas company.
"They were pretty helpful," Pottmeyer said. "Hopefully, I'll get a call."
Xander said one key to increasing the number of industry jobs is to keep natural gas demand closely lined to supply, rather than flooding the market with the product.
"I have wells that produce, in 30 days, what it used to take a well 25 or 30 years to produce," he said in highlighting the technological improvements because of horizontal drilling and fracking.
Because of relatively high natural gas supply and relatively low demand, the current price per 1,000-cubic-foot unit is about $3.35, Xander said. This is much lower than the $14 or more each unit cost in 2008, but he believes the price "will come back."
"As some coal-fired electric plants are replaced with natural gas-fired electric plants, and as more cars begin to run on natural gas, we will see demand go up," he said.
In addition to the public believing the drillers are using out-of-state workers, Xander said another misconception of his industry is that it is seeking to "rip off the public."
Those who own mineral rights in West Virginia have the right to extract their gas and oil, even if someone else owns the surface on top of those minerals, but this is not the situation his industry seeks, Xander said. However, the oil and gas business also did not create these "split estates," he added.
"I would rather have a root canal than drill a gas well on land owned by a surface owner who does not own their minerals," Xander added, although acknowledging that drillers are doing this throughout the state.