West Virginia has joined Ohio and Pennsylvania in an effort to grow the shale gas industry on a regional level. An agreement solidifying that partnership was signed Tuesday, Oct. 13, in Morgantown.
The agreement spells out four main areas that the three states will work together on to grow the natural gas industry: Marketing, workforce development, infrastructure and research.
“We have so many universities, great universities – WVU, Pitt, Carnegie Melon, Ohio State, Cleveland State – who are looking at all these different issues, doing all kinds of research on it,” Vision Shared president and CEO Cory Dennison said. “We’re going to be getting them working together and collaborating together and then taking that information and then benefiting from it.”
Vision Shared is a nonprofit that focuses on economic development in West Virginia and was one of the groups that brought leaders from the three states together.
West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed Tuesday’s agreement, along with Ohio Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolfe, during the Tri-State Shale Summit in Morgantown. The summit bills itself as bringing industry leaders together to discuss opportunities in the Marcellus and Utica shale regions.
Tomblin said you don’t often hear about the Texas or Louisiana oil and gas industries on their own, but you do hear about the Gulf Coast as a region. He said it’s time for the tri-state area to market itself in a similar way.
“I think it’s very important that we work as three states, or as a region that has the gas in common, to promote the Appalachian Basin as a good place for companies to invest in our region and to create jobs here,” Tomblin said.
That regional approach also applies to growing the natural gas industry workforce. Dennison said that when companies think about moving into a region, they look to see how many qualified workers are available nearby.
“When you put a 50-mile radius, a 100-mile radius and a 250-mile radius over most of the large cities in West Virginia and southwest Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio, you’re going to be crossing state lines. So for the workforce effort, I think that’s really where we can collaborate together as three states,” he said.
The agreement says each state will pay for its own expenses in meeting their common goals and will automatically renew every year until Dec. 31, 2018.