Area Visitors and Conventions Bureau Director talks oil, gas boom

Niki WolfeNewcomerstown News Published:

Trying to prepare for the anticipated oil and gas industry was the main idea behind the recent Newcomerstown Chamber of Commerce luncheon meeting.

Amy Rutledge, executive director of the Carroll County Visitors and Convention Bureau and president of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, spoke about how the influx of the oil and gas industry has changed her county.

"The 'game' hasn't started yet," Rutledge said about the oil and gas industry that is taking over her county. "We are still early in the stages of development."

She said the first oil wells were drilled in March-April 2011 in Carroll County. However, before this, title searches were completed and property owners had leases signed. She said on average there were some 40 people running title searches on property at the county Court House on any given day.

She said jokingly said that Carroll County has become the "Home of White Trucks." Those "white trucks" are what brings in the oil well employees. She said she has seen license plates from Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

"They are hiring local but not every job is ready to be hired locally," she said.

Safety has become the top aspect of all companies working in the oil and gas industry, she said, including in her county. She said companies are very conscientious of employees' and residents' safety.

"They don't want an accident anymore than we would want to see one," Rutledge said.

Right now, Chesapeake Energy is the main driller in the county and Rex Energy has one well. But there are 170 permits issued for Carroll County to drill oil wells.

In terms of what the influx of these oil field workers have done to the local economy, she said it's amazing. Carroll County did have 14 percent unemployment and now its below the state average of 6.1 percent.

For instance, one local restaurant that is only open for lunch did have three employees but now has to have six for the lunch crowd rush.

Carrollton is lucky because all four of its main state routes run straight through the heart of the county.

"It's not a sleepy, small town anymore," she said.

In a county that budgets only $600,000 for county road improvements, Rutledge said the oil companies have made over $26 million in road improvements themselves. That's to make sure that all the heavy drilling rig equipment can travel down township roads safely.

In terms of Carroll County Chamber membership, she said the membership list has grown from 175 in 2011 to 242 currently.

"The app you are working on is a great thing," she said about the mobile app that the Newcomerstown Chamber of Commerce is working on.

She said her county is working on getting broadband Internet.

On the down side, she said crime in her county has risen but that comes with the influx of more people. But, she said it's not perpetuated by the oil and gas workers. She said, in most cases, it's the locals who are breaking into the worker's vehicles.

But, the oil and gas field workers are tough, she said, working 12-hour shifts and being out there in temperatures from 5 degrees to 105 degrees.

And these workers are renting houses in Carroll County which has cost rent prices to sky-rocket.

In terms of how to prepare for this anticipated boom, Rutledge said she's not sure but she would say to continue to offer good customer service because the workers "will find you if you continue to treat them well."

Overall, she said the oil and gas industry is "changing our landscape. It's exciting and I hope you guys will see it, too."

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