Voters across the political spectrum tell government leaders to focus on jobs and the economy, so Gov. Tom Corbett wisely talked about job creation when he visited Erie on July 11 to tour FMC Technologies (formerly American Meter) at 1602 Wagner Ave.
At the Erie plant of FMC, a Fortune 500 company, workers are producing metering equipment used by the oil and natural gas industries. Jim Ertle, vice president of measurement products for FMC’s Measurement Solutions operation in Erie, said business is up locally because of increased demand from drillers in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations.
We often beseech political leaders in Harrisburg to pay attention to the Erie region. Corbett’s visit served as a good reminder that we also have to pay attention to ways to improve and sustain Pennsylvania’s economy as a whole, including hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.
Although citizens seem united on the need to strengthen the economy and grow jobs, they split into factions over fracking. Supporters say natural gas produced by fracking will improve the economy and help the U.S. to become energy independent. Opponents fear that fracking is harming the environment. The debate is usually far afield from Erie — usually in eastern and central Pennsylvania, where landowners lease their property to drilling companies, where service industries benefit by catering to oil and gas workers and where some residents who rely on water wells claim that disposal of fracking wastes has polluted their water supply.
Now industries in Erie that supply the oil and gas industry, such as FMC, are starting to see gains. All-American Hose, based in Union City, has expanded into the former Steris Corp. building in the 2400 block of West 23rd Street in Millcreek Township. The company has hired 25 new workers and additional part-timers, mostly for the Millcreek plant, which produces polyurethane hoses to transport water used in the fracking process.
The Warren Co., 2201 Loveland Ave. in Millcreek, a fourth-generation family business, is a steel service center and manufacturer of steel-related products. It is retrofitting equipment used in fracking, said Jim Vaughn, sales manager.
Between 25 and 30 of the company’s 70 employees work in fabrication. The fracking work “is currently helping to support at least 25 percent of our fabricating employees for the summer months” for a project that is expected to take six months, Vaughn said. “The potential is there to definitely help with job creation,” he said about the company’s fracking work. “This is just the beginning of our oil and gas ventures.”
We remain hopeful that the debate over fracking will grow less contentious as industry and environmental groups work on a voluntary certification program for natural gas drilling at the Center for Sustainable Shale Development in Pittsburgh.
Fracking opponents in this region should consider that new jobs are opening up in Erie due to fracking. No one should turn up their noses at that trend.