Some Growth May Be Fleeting

In part because local officials primed the pump for growth by having land and infrastructure ready for new businesses, the economy in much of East Ohio seems to be gathering steam.

Just this week, Jefferson County officials celebrated employment growth of 1,053 jobs during the first six months of the year, along with an increase in county sales tax collections of more than $400,000 for that period, when compared to the same six months in 2011.

On Wednesday there was more good news. A Chesapeake Energy affiliate, Great Plains Oilfield Rentals, announced it will locate a 120-employee facility in St. Clairsville.

Ironically, the company’s announcement was an illustration of the perils of relying on the energy industry for long-term economic stability.

GPOR is moving its operation from Buckhannon, W.Va. At one time, it seemed that region of the Mountain State would remain the center of the gas drilling boom for a long time. No doubt local leaders and many residents of the Buckhannon area believed good times were there to stay for many years.

But the dynamics of exploiting massive gas deposits underlying this region of the country have changed. “Wet” gas of the type that brings greater profits than “dry” gas seems to be more abundant here and west of the Ohio Valley than it is in central West Virginia.

So GPOR is moving to where the action is. Other companies linked to the gas and oil industries have done the same thing.

For now, that is good news for the Northern Panhandle and East Ohio.

Fortunately, a substantial amount of growth in Jefferson and Belmont counties has involved other types of businesses. Let’s hope they have staying power.

At the same time, oil and gas industry expansion is to be embraced – but with the knowledge it may be an easy come, easy go boost to our local economy.