On Thursday afternoon, Think About Energy hosted a webinar about how the Marcellus Shale has positively impacted Pennsylvania and its various counties and communities. The webinar, titled “Local Community Growth and Sustainability with the Natural Gas Industry,” was moderated by George Stark, Director of External Affairs for Cabot Oil and Gas.
The webinar featured longtime PEIA partners Washington County Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Kotula and Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Jason Fink. Susquehanna County Commissioner Alan Hall also joined the conversation, which featured topics such as how the gas industry has benefited counties, farms, and residents, and how the industry has created all different types of jobs and opportunities for nearby communities.
Fink briefly talked about how the industry has helped grow businesses in downtown Williamsport and kept businesses running during COVID-19. Hotels are still able to operate at 70 percent capacity in his region and the restaurant industry continues to boom from visitors staying at the hotels. Fink went on to further explain how there is a strong relationship between the hospitality and gas industries.
Not only are hospitality businesses booming, but agricultural businesses have benefited significantly from the Marcellus Shale as well. Prior to the Marcellus Shale, the values of farms in the area were low. Now the land is worth much more and farmers are able to expand their property. The expansion of farmland means more animals and more crops, which translates into more revenue for farmers. Hall explained that prior to the expanse of the natural gas industry, farmers were leaving because they were not making any money. Since the placement of the natural gas plants, farmers are now able to completely reinvent their farms.
Kotula, Hall and Fink all stressed how the industry has positively impacted the education system as well. The industry allows students learn about certain career opportunities from a young age. Kids from K-12 are able to take tours of the plants, and STEM students are given a hands-on experience in learning about natural power plants. Kotula, Hall and Fink elaborated how important STEM learning is for students. Kids are able to have jobs right out of high school or college. Fink mentioned how Penn College of Technology in northeastern Pennsylvania partners with the industry to get supplies and let students have hands-on experience.
“It’s important that the younger students are exposed to the industry and see the vast opportunities,” said Kotula, who was among the founders of PEIA more than five years ago to promote investments in the energy infrastructure necessary to ensure sustained growth among our energy resources.
Not only does the gas industry impact agriculture, education and commercial/industrial industries, but also the arts and culture. Fink explained that the industry has had a large impact on improving the quality of life for local residents. “This industry is investing in a lot of partnership projects,” Fink said, citing a theater that was just built in Lycoming.
Hall went on to explain how a new hospital was built with the help of Cabot Oil and Gas and a new library was built in Susquehanna County. Businesses are benefiting immensely from the help of these gas industries. Without taxes being raised or money being borrowed, places like hospitals and libraries can be built.
Kotula closed by saying a common theme in the community is the willingness to work with the industry and positioning the industry for long-term success. “We want this to be a lifetime for opportunity,” he said.