CADIZ - Ohio Gov. John Kasich was in the Ohio Valley Tuesday for the grand opening of a field office for MarkWest Energy in Harrison County that is expected to hire at least 100 people.
Cadiz Mayor Ken Zitko joined Frank M. Semple, chairman, president and chief executive officer of MarkWest Energy Partners, to welcome Kasich before a group of 60 local dignitaries and media at the invitation-only ceremony.
The Colorado-based energy company announced plans to build a natural gas processing facility in Harrison County and signed an agreement in February with Cadiz to lease 207 acres of village land in the industrial park to develop a pumping station. The company purchased the former home of Rosebud Mining on the square to house its Ohio field offices.
FIELDING QUESTIONS — Frank M. Semple, right, chairman, president and chief executive officer of MarkWest Energy Partners, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich answered questions during the grand opening of MarkWest’s field office in Cadiz on Tuesday.
''We are going to hire a lot of people - it will start small then ramp up in the next 18 months," Semple said.
He told the local elected officials in attendance that MarkWest initially will invest $5 million in the state of Ohio.
''We will initially be hiring over 100 people to staff and fill our organization and a lot of them will be from right here in Cadiz,'' he said.
The company also is planning a facility in Monroe County, and the two facilities likely will result in the creation of 700 construction-related jobs and 40 plus full-time, long-term positions.
"As a company we are focused on the development of significant natural gas gathering, transportation and processing and natural gas liquid transportation, fractionation and marketing infrastructure in the Utica shale in Eastern Ohio," Semple said.
He said his company executed a letter of intent with Gulfport Energy Corp. to provide gathering, processing, fractionation and marketing services in the liquids-rich corridor of the Utica.
"This amounts to the first major transaction in the Utica," said Semple. ''It is going to require some facilities here in Ohio supported by Ohio employees."
Semple then introduced Kasich. MarkWest and Kasich announced earlier this year the company's plans to build $500 million worth of processing facilities in Harrison and Monroe counties.
"It is a great day for this community and I am thrilled to be here. Listen, this is a big deal for Frank to make this happen, a half-a-billion-dollar investment," Kasich said. "He is the first one out and this is not about me today, I just wanted to come here because I think it is something we can all be excited about.
"Ohio remains the No. 1 job creator in the Midwest and the No. 5 job creator in the United States. Frank Semple is a fantastic guy and he is the first one to really make the commitment that he made.
''When we do this Utica development it has to be done properly. I am going to be releasing a comprehensive energy bill (today) that is going to include incentives for clean coal, is going to include things that have been long not done in the area of what is called co-generation and that is released heat which will add to the renewable portfolio."
He also emphasized the importance of work force training.
''Look at these things," Kasich said, pointing out illustrations of MarkWest plants in Texas and Pennsylvania. ''This is 21st century.''
''This is high-tech stuff and it doesn't mean you have to be a nuclear physicist to work here, as long as we can get our educational institutions to train our people and Frank will let us know exactly how they need to be trained, we can be successful in keeping the foreigners out - those are people from West Virginia, Kentucky and Michigan,'' added Kasich with a chuckle.
Kasich said the process would not be without issues, citing the Youngstown tremors.
"There is not a trade off between job creation and environmental protection, we can have them both, but it is really important that we put rules in place, regulations in place today, that are common sense, that are clear, that are not over the top and are not nit-picky," he said.
He noted safety concerns over high pressure transmission pipelines and gathering lines will be a priority along with capping orphan wells to prevent any contamination of ground water.
"Our staff got together with MarkWest Energy staff to put together a regulatory format that we were very comfortable with that we think will be all that we can do to make sure that as we operate this industry it is going to be safe as possible," Kasich said.
"Life is full of problems, that is just the way it is, but we are doing everything we can to make sure that we, No. 1, have protection and at the same time we let this industry grow.
"We know we are going to have issues with impact fees. Right now everyone is happy but the time is going to come when the trucks start rolling, and as long as we have Ohioans driving those trucks I think we are going to be OK. But we are going to have infrastructure issues, we are going to have issues with moving these trucks when we are trying to get our kids to school. In creating a format of road agreements that will all work it is important that we are all patient.
"There is no hidden agenda for me - I hope you all have figured that out by now. I just want this industry to work, I want it to be successful because frankly it can rescue generations of Ohioans who did not have any work. I want all local officials to feel that they can approach the governor's office, register your concerns and coordinate with the companies.
"I am not convinced we will get a cracker in Ohio, but if a cracker comes to the Midwest we will all benefit from it, regardless of where it is located. We have two 21st century processing facilities and a fractionator. which is, when you go up the scale of technology, about as high as you can get. In other words, Frank came to bat and hit a double and triple for the people in this part of Ohio and he made a decision, put his neck on the line to trust in us and we have to make sure we are good partners with him, because he will be good partners with us.
"We are not going to build this community and this region solely on the back of shale gas, that is not what we should do. You have a lot of other things to offer, not only to the people of the state, people of the country, but the people of the world.
"Relying on what industry, we did it before, didn't we. Then one day it ended. We are not going to make that mistake again. We are going to be diverse, we are going to be focused, we are going to get the job done and you know the greatest thing, our children and our grandchildren will have better lives because of what we are able to do.
"We also think that every Ohioan is going to be able to receive an income tax cut which will also help our small businesses," Kasich added.
Kasich had the opportunity to meet with President Barack Obama Tuesday night in Dayton. The governor, the president and British Prime Minister David Cameron watched first-round games in the NCAA men's basketball tournament being played at the University of Dayton. Kasich said he took the opportunity to discuss energy development with Obama.
"I was telling him about what we're doing with shale. He's concerned about the environment. We can do it where it's environmentally sound, and we can get the jobs," Kasich said. "We announced a half-a-billion dollar development today. I wanted to compliment him on the fact that he would like us to be able to get this done without a lot of federal interference if we can get this done right."
Kasich said he reminded the president that Ohio is among the leaders in combining economic and environmental concerns.
"I was telling him that what we're doing in Ohio is that we're setting standards so that we can have a safe environment and, at the same time, have economic development. In his State of the Union, he talked about the fact that this is great potential for the country. I told him we'll be introducing legislation this week that will deal with the ability to have the proper development of the wellheads so that we don't leak into the groundwater."
The governor said the development of shale natural gas can help the country to become more energy independent.
"And we don't have to sacrifice the environment to get the jobs. We can do both. I wanted to let him know what's going on on the ground. He was pleased to hear what we're doing. I just told him we were moving in the right direction."
The White House said the trip to the NCAA tournament game was intended to showcase the special relationship between two key allies during Cameron's three-day visit to the United States. Obama and Cameron will discuss the upcoming NATO and G-8 summits today, followed by a state dinner at the White House.
Obama's quick trip also gave him a chance to connect with basketball fans and generate attention in Ohio, which he carried in the 2008 election and is considered one of the top toss-up states in 2012. The trip comes one week after Republican front-runner Mitt Romney captured Ohio's GOP primary.