The strength of Washington County's economy was again confirmed last week as the United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics determined that Washington County had the third highest percentage increase of employment in the entire country
By Jeff Kotula; Originally published on October 16 in the Observer Reporter
The strength of Washington County's economy was again confirmed last week as the United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics determined that Washington County had the third highest percentage increase of employment in the entire country. The bureau determined that between March 2010 and March 2011, Washington County's employment growth was 4.3 percent. Only two other counties in the U.S. - Elkhart County in Indiana and Ottawa County in Michigan had higher employment growth rates. This is a significant finding and is directly related to the positive economic impact of the Marcellus Shale industry in our county.
We have every reason to feel energized about Washington County's future as we are at the epicenter of Pennsylvania's natural gas development. The county was the home to the first Marcellus Shale well and the first horizontal well. We have one of the highest rates of drilling activity and production in the state. With an abundant supply of these natural resources, our county is attracting energy companies every day and this means jobs for our residents.
In Southpointe alone, over 50 energy and energy-related companies have located offices and operations. Companies such as Consol Energy, one of the nation's largest producers of natural resources, chose Southpointe for its world headquarters and Range Resources, the first company to test modern drilling and completion techniques in the Marcellus Shale, will expand on its already significant presence when it opens its new headquarters in Southpointe later this year. In addition, energy and energy-related companies such as Chesapeake Energy, Rice Energy, UniversalPegasus, Select Energy, Steptoe & Johnson and others have established operations or expanded across our county. While these companies alone are creating jobs and investment, we should not forget the positive secondary effects of the energy industry on our local economy.
New industry also brings new opportunities for local businesses and residents. Many local industrial suppliers, manufacturers, restaurants, hotels, shops and services in our county are all experiencing an increase in business because of the energy industry. New business means new jobs. In addition, our agricultural sector, which is still one of the county's largest industries, is being re-energized by leasing activities and is re-investing those resources into new equipment and improvements. This translates into new customers for farm suppliers and other businesses that support our local agricultural communities. The natural gas industry has created "economies of shale" that not only provides jobs and economic benefits for those in the energy industry itself, but also for local businesses, services and residents that are experiencing new growth by supporting the industry. All of these new jobs are why Washington County is third in the nation in percentage increase of employment growth, has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the region and why we are now considered "The Energy Capital of the East."
Washington County is at the center of the largest nonconventional natural gas reserve in the world, and it is up to us to make the most of it. Exploring for and producing clean-burning natural gas in the Marcellus Shale will generate billions of dollars and continue to generate hundreds of thousands of jobs in Pennsylvania, many of them in Washington County. With states such as Ohio and West Virginia also looking to capitalize on natural gas opportunities, we must continue to support the industry locally and work with our legislators and business community to insure their growth continues to be ours. In Washington County we do not just believe the energy industry is revitalizing our county and creating jobs, we can prove it.
The writer is president of Washington County Chamber of Commerce.