Hotel sales director Melissa Sedlock sees firsthand what the emerging development of oil and natural gas resources in the Utica shale play could mean for eastern Ohio’s beleaguered economy.
Sedlock grew up in Carroll County, where more shale gas wells have been drilled than anywhere in Ohio, and she works at the Best Western Plus University Inn in Steubenville, an old steel town that community leaders hope becomes the gateway to Ohio’s shale gas region.
Carroll County’s unemployment rate is just below 7 percent these days, a big improvement over the double-digit jobless rates seen there before shale gas drilling began in earnest about 18 months ago. Wide-load trucks hauling drilling equipment have become a common sight. The county recorder’s office was so swamped by researchers reviewing property records that tables were set up in hallways and meeting rooms at the county courthouse in Carrolton to handle the overflow.
And a lot of people in Carroll County are quick to mention that some local landowners became instant millionaires after receiving seven-figure lease bonuses from companies wanting to tap the oil and natural gas under their farms and country homes.
“Carrollton is such a small town with not a lot of opportunities, and it has had a lot of unemployment,” Sedlock said. “There was a sad kind of feeling there. Now it’s changing. Everyone is jumping on the (shale gas) bandwagon.”