The economic news for our area just keeps getting better.
First, for the past few months we have been experiencing an economic boost from the number of area residents who have been leasing the mineral rights to their properties to companies which are drilling for natural gas and oil in the Marcellus and Utica shale which lie thousands of feet underground in our area.
Shortly after that we began seeing economic improvement from the jobs produced by drilling sites in our area and related industries.
Now this week, we've learned that Chesapeake Energy Corp. plans to build a natural gas processing complex in Columbiana County. The $900 million project is expected to be rolled out over five years, with the first portions of the complex scheduled to be in service by June 2013. This plant is expected to produce 100 to 150 good-paying jobs.
And just as we were starting to comprehend what Chesapeake's plans could mean for our area, we learned yesterday that Shell Oil Co. has chosen a site in Monaca, Pa., for a major, multi-billion-dollar petrochemical refinery that could provide another huge economic boost to the region.
Monaca is just 20 miles away from Columbiana County and Hancock County, W.Va., so it is close enough to provide jobs for many residents of our area.
But local residents need to get themselves ready to take advantage of the employment opportunities that are available now and will continue for possibly the next 30 years.
Several trade and vocational schools in the area are offering training to qualify for these jobs. Unemployed residents or those who are looking to improve their economic status by getting a better job should be paying attention to learn what steps they must take to qualify.
Unfortunately, Columbiana County Commissioners at their meeting Wednesday said they have been told by employers in the shale industry and others that the biggest obstacle for them is finding enough potential workers who are able to pass drug tests.
Passing a drug test is a requirement for all employees in this industry because of the safety issue. Shale employers also conduct random drug testing and successfully passing a drug test is also a condition for being admitted to some types of training for these jobs.
The shale industry poses big opportunities but county residents must be able to take advantage of them. If you're interested, get trained and get straight. We have much to celebrate, but the party won't include drug users.