Energy infrastructure helps the Midwest boom

In Youngstown, something amazing and wonderful is happening. Work is going well for the building trades. Most locals are at full capacity. Everyone is on a job.

Across portions of Ohio, the demand for skilled laborers is so high that wages are rising as employers compete for workers so they can finish their projects on time.

Democrat, Republican or independent, this is what everyone wants for the economy. When labor is in high demand, wages go up and working families increase their standard of living.

Contrast this picture with one we have seen all too often in recent years — closed factories, idle workers and no infrastructure investment. Those communities suffer more than just job losses. They lose hope and their social fabric frays. We have seen this in rural and urban areas since the 2008 recession.

Infrastructure investment stimulates economic growth, which strengthens communities. That economic growth brings more than jobs. It brings hope, happiness and stability.

The labor boom in and around Youngstown did not come out of thin air. It grew from investments made over time in industries such as construction, transportation and energy. People see building and road construction every day, but the energy portion is significant even if it is not as visible.

In just five years, from 2011 through 2016, direct investment in shale-related industries in Ohio totaled $50.4 billion, a Cleveland State University study found. The 713-mile ET Rover pipeline, a $4.2 billion project, will create an estimated 10,000 jobs during its construction phase. Most of them (4,500-6,500) are in Ohio. Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline, expects to spend $620 million on labor in Ohio alone.

That money goes directly into the Ohio economy. It supports the families of the tradespeople who work on the pipeline, and it in turn supports the local communities in which those families buy groceries and make mortgage or rent payments.

The economic gains do not end there. This pipeline is expected to generate $147 million in property taxes in just its first year and $135 million in ad valorem tax revenue.

Then there are the benefits that come from having a steady new supply of natural gas. Manufacturers, other businesses and even residential consumers could see price reductions from this increased supply.

Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia produce about a quarter of all U.S. natural gas, but as pipelines are completed, that portion is expected to rise to one third. The Rover Pipeline and others underway “address a lack of pipeline capacity that has stunted development of two of the largest shale fields in the United States, the Marcellus and Utica formations,” Reuters reported in April.

These pipelines are not just creating high-paying construction jobs. They are helping the Midwest and other parts of the United States to grow. That means more permanent jobs in manufacturing and other industries. Those jobs will support families and help stabilize communities that would otherwise have fewer new opportunities.

There is no doubt about it, domestic energy production is helping to revitalize the American Midwest. This is something we all should celebrate.

Ray Hipsher is a pipeline specialist with the Ohio Laborers’ District Council. He may be reached at ray@ohldc.com or (614) 895-9002.

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