Just two years ago, the Appalachian region in Ohio suffered one of the most devastating job losses of 2013: the Ormet aluminum smelting plant in Monroe County, located along the Ohio River closed, leaving 1,000 people out of work in Ohio and West Virginia. If the job losses weren’t bad enough, the closure also meant that millions in tax revenues would also be lost. But then along came the development of Ohio’s Utica Shale.
Thanks to natural gas development in the area, Monroe County has had an over 340 percent increase in tax revenue, which has not only filled the void left by the plant closure, but has also brought back hope to the community that had been shattered two years ago. Today, natural gas development has been said to be the “lifeline” for Monroe County.
Tax revenues increased from $1.5 million in FY2010 to a whopping $6.8 million in FY2015. The tax loss from Ormet, during the same period of time, would have created a $4.5 million deficit from the county budget. Instead, the oil and natural gas industry not only covered that loss but added supplementary millions, as is evident by the county sales tax records.
A County Saved By Fracking
Unless you live and work in Ohio, it’s hard to imagine the positive transformational change that has occurred in many of the state’s poorest counties.
The Wheeling Intelligencer and Columbus Dispatch shows photo of closed Ormet plant. The Columbus Dispatch reported just two years ago that “the economy of the region along the Ohio River is now as tattered as the banner after the closing of aluminum-maker Ormet Corp.”
Reports cited international trade regulations as the cause for the closure of the Ormet plant, which resulted in 1,000 local jobs going over to China. Monroe County was a poster child of shipping jobs overseas.
Heart wrenching stories emerged, like Brian Howell, a 27-year old father of toddlers who recounted the pain he felt when forced to explain to his young daughter that he was unable to purchase her a toy, due to his recent layoff from the plant. As Brian told reporters in 2013, “that crushed me.” Other local displaced workers reported how they were “devastated” and concerned that the county would be left in peril such as Ronald Jackson, who told reporters,
“This is devastating. This county will be become a welfare County.”
Mr. Jackson may have been correct back in 2013, but the county did not realize this prediction, thanks to shale development.
In stark contrast, today, the industrial park which is only a few miles from the closed Ormet plant shows signs of life, with new business and corporate offices. The industrial park was even renamed “Monroe County’s Energy Campus” and has received high honors from the Eastern Ohio Development Alliance (EODA) as the emerging area to conduct business in the region. With a flurry of new pipelines, staggering production of natural gas, and access to road, rail, and barge, Clarington, Ohio (located in the Monroe County) is on pace to set the standard for natural gas prices. Indeed, Clarington may in fact become the new Henry Hub within the next few years. Take a look at what the industrial park looks like today and what local folks are saying about the emerging natural gas industry, which is bringing this county back to life.
Recent photos of the Hannibal Industrial Park, located in Monroe County, and its tenants. These tenants support the county through various income and sales tax revenues.
The Monroe County Auditor Pandora Newhart said,
“The oil and gas is a real shot in the arm for us. “
Monroe County Commissioner Mick Schumacker recently told EID,
“It’s hard to imagine what would have happened to Monroe County had the oil and gas industry not started to develop when it did. When our largest employer, Ormet, laid off thousands of workers, the oil and gas jobs allowed our residents and workforce to move right into alternative employment without being forced to leave home and uproot their families. Additionally, our county budget and funding for our schools would have been devastated, but thanks to shale, we were able to circumvent that situation entirely. We hope that with the new pipelines coming in and potential for greater development in our industrial park that we can see a rebirth in our county. The timing has been a real blessing for us all.”
As EID continues to highlight, out-of-state and foreign anti-fracking groups often try to completely misrepresent the true impact of shale development to local communities, like Monroe County. The fact is, this Ohio county has been completely bailed out because of the oil and natural gas industry. With staggering natural gas production, it’s safe to say that this good news will only continue to be “pretty amazing”.