Economic Development breakfast highlights gas opportunities

Honorees at the annual Economic Development Board breakfast included: from left, John Kameen, Commissioner MaryAnn Warren, Janice Lobdell, Paul Kreisher, Bill Kelley, Jim Bralla and Commissioner Leon Allen.

BY STACI WILSON

The boost natural gas development has had on the local economy was highlighted at the annual breakfast meeting hosted by the Susquehanna County Economic Development Board, Thursday, Aug. 25, at the Summit, in New Milford, attended by about 80 people.

The breakfast was sponsored by Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation.

Janice Lobdell, of Cabot, said the natural gas company has made a $2 billion investment in the region since 2006.

“We’re proud to be a partner in progress,” Lobdell said.

Progress Authority Board President Paul Kreischer said the entrepreneurial spirit in the area has bolstered strong employment in the region.

The Progress Authority handles the day-to-day economic development activities forSusquehannaCounty.

Tony Ventello, executive director of the Progress Authority, said the focus of development activities inSusquehannaCountyremains on improvements to infrastructure.

Ventello said, “Our biggest challenge is finding sites with infrastructure.”

Site needs for most businesses include flat land, sewer, water and gas. “That does not exist here,” Ventello said.

He said most of the economic development board’s priorities are infrastructure or .infrastructure-related projects.

Ventello also said that with the whole country focused on economic conditions and greater competition for state and federal dollars, it is imperative for the Progress Authority to articulate the needs of the county.

In addition to infrastructure needs, Ventello also spoke about the area’s rich supply of natural gas and value-added components of the supply, like compressed natural gas (CNG), and local natural gas service.

“Let’s utilize it here before it’s sent to the main market,” he said.

Tom Shepstone, campaign director for Energy-in-Depth’s Northeast Marcellus Initiative, spoke about organization’s work in an 18 county region of northeasternPennsylvaniaand the southern tier ofNew York.

The Northeast Marcellus Initiative, which launched in April of this year, is an industry-funded, public relations organization that advocates to the public on behalf of the natural gas industry.

“We’re not embarrassed to say we advocate for the industry,” Shepstone said.

Shepstone, of Honesdale, commented on the progress the industry has made inSusquehannaCounty.

“It’s been very difficult in some areas to get it done,” Shepstone said of gas development in theDelawareRiver BasinandNew Yorkstate. “There are groups springing up against it.”

Shepstone said the mission of the new initiative was to motivate the pro-gas forces at the grassroots level and to increase the visibility of those people at events.

“We want to ensure the pro-gas side is heard when the subject comes up,” Shepstone said.

The initiative’s website, www.eidmarcellus.org, serves as a resource for landowner groups and others interested in the gas industry. It also offers the industry take on studies regarding natural gas in the region.

The Progress Authority and the Economic Development Board presented Shepstone and Lobdell with certificates of appreciation at the breakfast.

Bill Kelley, owner of Taylor Rental stores in South Montrose and Tunkhannock as well as other area businesses, was honored with the “Business of the Year” recognition.

John Kameen, chairman of the Economic Development Board, was honored as the 2011 Citizen of the Year by the county commissioners.

And Board member Jim Bralla, who plans to step down from his position at the end of the year, was honored for his service on the economic development board.