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In eastern Ohio, Harrison County continues to see the benefits of the gas and oil industry despite a general slump in drilling across the nation.
“Even in the aftermath of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries flooding the gas and oil market, the industry remains a strong presence in the county,” Nicholas Homrighausen said. Homrighausen is the Executive Director of Community and Economic Development in Harrison County.
He doesn’t deny OPEC’s actions have impacted the industry, but they haven’t crippled it.
“It hurts the drilling a little bit,” he said. “But as far as the midstream companies, they are continuing to grow.
“Also, interest from potential companies in our county has not slowed down.” Homrighausen believes the gas and oil industry has been steady in Harrison County in part because of the county’s location.
“We are in the sweet spot of where most of the gas is separated and processed before going to market. That is on a steady rise. “Furthermore, we just announced that a 1,000 megawatt power plant is to be built in our industrial park.”
In total, Harrison County has seen 382 permits issued and 328 wells drilled with 270 of those producing as of November. As of that time, Chesapeake Energy was the leading producer.
The county also has seen a great deal of economic spinoff from the energy activity, Homrighausen said. An example is the increase in sales tax revenue from sales at the four processing plants in the county. (Those facilities are the Utica East Ohio Plant in Scio, a MarkWest plant in Hopedale and two MarkWest plants in Cadiz.)
“The industry has been a shot in the arm and has given us hope to grow this county to its full potential,” he said. “This is our second chance to fill the county with as many diverse industries as we can bring here.”
Because of money received from the oil and gas leasing of county-owned land, the Harrison County Board of Commissioners has been able to provide funds of more than $140,000, on average, for water, sewer and infrastructure improvements to nearly every village in the county.
At present, the commissioners and Homrighausen are working on specifications and will seek bids for a countywide, water and sewer master plan.
“We want to take this opportunity to fix, improve and expand the county’s infrastructure,” he said. “We want to be ready for future growth throughout the entire county.”
With an eye to the future when the wells eventually run dry, Homrighausen and commissioners are placing a priority on the county’s business diversification.
“As I said, we want to attract as many diverse businesses and industries as possible to this area. So, when and if that does happen, we will still be flush with businesses and able to weather any fluctuation in one area of business downturn.
“We definitely don’t want to put all our eggs into one basket.”