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Experts in Youngstown look at job future from shale boom

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - For nearly three years The Valley has heard the promise of a "Shale Boom." Industry experts comment on whether we've seen the influx of jobs as predicted.

On Thursday, oil and gas Companies filled the Covelli Centre for a third year for the Youngstown Utica and Natural Gas Conference and Expo.

Tony Paglia with the Youngstown/ Warren Regional Chamber says the annual event began at about the same time word began to spread of a possible "shale boom."

Paglia says since then the region's unemployment rate has dropped from about 13% down to about 8%. Added work includes about 4,000 direct and indirect jobs from companies making equipment related to the oil and gas industry. Paglia calls the work a part of the "shale supply chain."

'"We've seen some really good, well paying jobs being created in just the last year and a half or two years. We are actually seeing it and it's real and it's not just being exaggerated," said Paglia.

Industry experts at the expo said its too soon to tell what additional job growth could be in store for the Valley.

Currently taking place is what experts call the "exploration phase" - a long period of research and testing. One focus is to make sure the oil and gas beneath the ground can be pulled  in a way that's cost efficient. This takes patience.

"Like everybody we're looking for a rate of return on our investment, that's the bottom line. We want to be able to go out and find oil and gas in commercial quantities," said Harry Schurr, General manager with Utica Operations for Consol Energy. "Everyone wants us to get to the late stages of developing mode where we're spending money and very surely going from well, to well,to well, but we're just not quit there yet."

"Oil and gas production and exploration is a rational process you never know what's down there until you drill a well and you don't drill a well without a lot of research," said Tom Stewart with the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.

Chamber officials say there are early signs that the exploration process may play out well for the Valley.

"Once that picture comes in then you're going to, if everything is looking good you're going to start seeing some full scale production," said Paglia.

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