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Natural Gas Development Triggers Booms in Local Communities

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The spike in natural gas development has proven to be a boon to businesses of all sorts in states located on top of the country’s the largest shale formations and basins. The most drilling and pipeline activity is being conducted in the massive formations – or “plays” – in Pennsylvania, North Dakota and Texas, where contractors are cashing in on the flurry of drilling that began in 2008.

“It’s definitely been a boon economically,” says Charles Campbell, director of special projects with Glenn O. Hawbaker, a State College, Penn.-based heavy and civil construction contractor. “And it’s all new business. The gas has been here for millions of years, but until recently none of this [business] existed.

The state is also attracting a host of businesses from out of state hoping to get their piece of the gas boom.

“There is a very active rapid growth market for companies,” says Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC), a trade group representing firms working in the region. “The most frequent calls coming in to the office, here, after jobseekers are businesses looking to get connected here.”

In North Dakota, the desire to get in to the shale drilling and pipeline building game has overwhelmed the secretary of state’s office, which is responsible for fielding and processing new business registration documents. On April 1 the office announced it would be closed to the public every Monday in order to process the mountain of paperwork from companies looking to set up shop in the state.

“They’ve just been inundated with new business filings,” says Justin Kringstad, head of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority. “There have been contractors and firms moving in from all over the country to get these pipelines built as soon as possible.”

Neither Hawbaker nor Wilkes-Barre-based surveying and environmental design firm Borton Lawson had worked in the gas industry prior to 2008 but since jumping in, the two firms say the sector now accounts for between 40% and 50% of their business, allowing both to expand.

“Since 2009 we’ve been able to nearly double our company and open four new offices,” says Chris McCue, head of oil and gas markets for Borton Lawson. “The gas industry was an absolute game-changer for us. And there are success stories like us all over the state.”

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