LISBON - If God helps those who help themselves, then local residents need to do the same if they want to land jobs being created by the shale gas boom under way in Columbiana County.
One way to do that is quit using drugs.
The topic came up at Wednesday's meeting of county commissioners when local union official Mark Bayless commented on the headlines in that day's newspaper announcing Chesapeake Energy Corp. intends to build a $900 million shale gas processing complex near Hanoverton.
Bayless, who is manager of Carpenters Local 171 in Youngstown, recommended commissioners do as other counties have and adopt a resolution encouraging Chesapeake and others involved in the gas boom hire local workers.
Commissioners said they obviously support hiring local workers, but it is ultimately up to residents to put themselves in the best position possible of competing for those jobs. One way to do this is by contacting a local vocational or trade school to inquire about obtaining the necessary training, or attend the periodic job fairs that are held.
"Getting the right training and skill sets for these jobs is so very important," Halleck said. "It takes a simple desire on the part of people who want to work."
Commissioner Jim Hoppel agreed. "Our work force in the county, as long as they get prepared, they have the upper hand because anytime a company has to bring in people from outside the area they have to pay (living expenses). It costs them money to bring people in from outside the area," he said.
Chesapeake declined for now to reveal the location of the processing complex or how many jobs the project is expected to create, but a study by three Ohio universities estimated the shale gas boom could create as many as 65,000 jobs in the state, which Halleck believes is on the low side.
"We have a great opportunity as long as we don't blow it," he said. The first portion of the complex are expected to be operational in 2013.
Commissioners said those in the shale industry and other employers have told them the biggest obstacle is finding enough potential workers able to pass drug tests. "One of our concerns, and it's not always easy to talk about, but we have a drug problem in this county, not only in this county but in Ohio," Halleck said.
He knows of one employer in another county who told him only 10 out of 100 potential employees were able to pass a drug test, and Commissioner John Payne said of 32 tested to drive water-hauling trucks used in the drilling process, only two passed the test.
"The drug issue is a real problem with them ... It's a safety factor. You wouldn't want a $150,000 truck out there being driven by someone who would endanger themselves or other people," Payne said.