Back in April, I had the opportunity to see firsthand how development of the Marcellus and Utica shale gas reserves has the potential to transform the economies of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. In that article, I wrote about the Tri-State Shale Coalition, a collaborative effort to build a petrochemical hub that can compete with the Gulf Coast. The spirit of partnership at the state level is trickling down to the regional level: The Polymer Alliance Zone (PAZ) of West Virginia announced on July 5 that it is welcoming Cabell and Wayne counties to its organization. Previously, the PAZ comprised the counties of Jackson, Mason, Pleasants, Tyler and Wood.
The PAZ was formed in 1996 as a pilot project of the state of West Virginia through an executive order of Governor Gaston Caperton. Its stated goal is to expand the industrial base in member counties by adding value to polymer businesses and related service companies that will provide increased quality job opportunities for West Virginians.
Interest in the region as a whole, which is being called Shale Crescent USA, skyrocketed when Shell Chemical announced that it would construct a $6 billion ethylene cracker plant northwest of Pittsburgh to exploit the Marcellus shale formation. It is expected to come on line in 2021-2022, and public officials see a tremendous opportunity to piggy-back infrastructure improvements, regional job creation and off-shoot investments in its wake. That’s true at the state and local levels.
“The addition of Cabell and Wayne counties to the Polymer Alliance Zone makes strategic sense,” said Keith Burdette, President of the PAZ, in a prepared statement. “It will broaden our ability to reach out for new investment and new jobs for our state and strengthen the resources we have to offer."
The Huntington Area Development Council (HADCO) developed a strategic partnership with the Polymer Alliance Zone to advance economic development in Cabell and Wayne counties, which it serves. A primary goal of HADCO and PAZ is a focus on polymer and related industries and the creation of quality, high paying jobs.
“Shared success between the HADCO and the Polymer Alliance Zone allows the entire Ohio Valley region to achieve its economic development vision of attracting high wage and high skill jobs to the area,” said David Lieving, President and CEO of HADCO. “This partnership is the kind of collaboration we need to connect our Ohio Valley communities around our shared goal of growing our existing manufacturing base and attracting new jobs and investment.”
The Ohio Valley, which includes parts of Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, is the most cost-effective region in the world to produce and manufacture plastics and polymers based upon the development of the Marcellus and Utica shale gas reserves, said the news release distributed by PAZ. “An abundance of natural gas, including natural gas liquids (NGLs), low natural gas costs, and proximity to 70% of the polyethylene industry within a day’s drive, are a game changer for the Ohio Valley,” said Burdette.