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As Shale Gas Work Comes to Mahoning County, Building Trades Look to Ensure Mahoning Workers Get the Jobs it Brings

In Mahoning County, Ohio, members of the building trades may have made inroads towards getting work on a new Hickory Bend cryogenic plant slated for Springfield Township.  The $300 million project will help ship natural gas collected from the region’s Utica Shale by shipping “wet” gas via truck and sending “dry” gas into the Tennessee Gas piepeline system.  The new cryogenic plant and corresponding wells and pipelines will be bringing quality jobs to the Youngstown region, jobs the local Building Trades would like to get.

“The pipeline project is looking very good at this point,” states Don Crane, president of the Western Reserve Building and Construction Trades Council. “In the negotiations. … [the] building trades contractors are looking at the project and feel very comfortable on where it’s headed.”

Natural gas continues to stimulate regional economies but has yet to make as broad and permanent an impact on the job market as it could because some gas companies choose to employ contractors they are familiar with instead of local workers. The nearby Kennsington Project in Hanover Township also warranted the construction of a cryogenic pant.  Though some local tradesmen logged hours on that project it was plagued by out-of-state workers for a majority of the project.  According to Don Crane,

We had contractors from the Mahoning Valley on the first part of that project, but it has since gone to out-of-town and out-of-state workers,” Crane said.

It’s often difficult for local contractors to land these pipeline and processing jobs, he noted, because many of these companies have developed long-standing relationships with contractors that they’ve worked with for years.

“It’s breaking that barrier down to get our contractors a shot at it,” he said, noting that it would cost an energy company just as much – possibly more – when they consider employee expenses.

The proposed Hickory Bend project is a collaboration between NiSource Midstream and Hilcorp Energy Co.  Many local residents worry about their elected officials entering into contracts with NiSource since they have a built a reputation for not properly maintaining their work.  At a board meeting of the Mahoning County Commissioners on Monday resident Patti Gorcheff said,

“NiSource is the company coming through here and they have a horrible track record as far as maintenance on these pipelines.  I don’t think that people understood that once they put the pipeline in, that they were going to build a cryogenic plant,” she said. “We all need to ask questions and I’d like to get answers.”

Details need to be hammered out and contractors vetted, but one thing is certain: the building trades need to get local men and women on the job site for the projects that are likely to shape the economic future of the communities in which they live.  


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