Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

August 7, 2012

Shale gas boom lifts W.Va. jobs

CHARLESTON (AP) — West Virginia’s construction industry is getting a lift from the Marcellus Shale drilling boom.

The industry employed 36,700 in June, up from 34,100 in June 2011, according to recent report by the Associated General Contractors of America. During the previous three years, employment dropped 19 percent.

“A lot of our members are working in the Marcellus Shale industry. Water and sewer contractors are putting in lines, highway contractors are putting in roads, aggregate suppliers are supplying stone to these projects,” Mike Clowers, executive director of the Contractors Association of West Virginia, told the Sunday Gazette-Mail.  “We are seeing a pretty good market for our membership that are now working in the oil and gas industry that were not involved in this process five years ago. As such, our members have been able to stay pretty busy.”

Pray Construction president Mark Grigsby said at least 30 percent of the Scott Depot company’s work volume is tied to the natural gas industry. The company is building support structures for the industry.

“Our work has not fallen off. We have experienced nothing but increased volume for the past several years,” Grigsby said.

In the past year, the company has hired administrative support staff, a project manager, and construction workers. They joined nearly 60 seasonal employees.

Publicly funded projects sparked an increase in construction employment in 2011 but many of those projects have been completed.

“In 2011, there was so much demand and so much work and we participated in that. Now that demand has been somewhat faded and we need to move on,” said John Strickland, president of Maynard C. Smith Construction of Charleston. “Last year it just seemed like there was a lot of work to bid ... the double edge sword was the work dried up.”

Smith said the Marcellus Shale boom has “saved our cookies.”

Private nonresidential construction spending in West Virginia is up 14 percent, said Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America’s chief economist.

“With the fracking in West Virginia and neighboring part of Ohio and Pennsylvania and interest in the chemical companies to put in ethane crackers ... nonresidential could benefit,” Simonson said. “I think that’s going to provide multiple benefits to construction and other industries in West Virginia.”


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