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The Suburbanite
  • Canton official says Chesapeake jobs should remain in city

  • Canton officials made a strong push to land the large-scale Chesapeake Energy project planned in Louisville. However, city officials say the 200 Chesapeake employees who work downtown will remain. The city also is finalizing an oil- and gas-related project at Mills Business Park.

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  • Although Chesapeake Energy is embarking on a massive project in Louisville, the mayor says Canton should retain the company’s 200 gas and oil-related jobs it has downtown.
    Fonda Williams, the city’s development director, said that Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon has made a verbal commitment to maintain a “downtown presence” in Canton.
    Mayor William J. Healy II said the downtown jobs are different than the type planned for Louisville. In the future, it’s possible that Chesapeake could consolidate some of its operations, Healy said. However, he expects the existing Chesapeake-related jobs to remain downtown for at least the next two or three years.
    The Canton jobs are office-oriented, Healy said. The mayor said he expects the Louisville positions to be related to trucking, unloading railcars and handling raw materials among other duties.
    Chesapeake has employees scattered at multiple downtown Canton sites.
    “We had been in some pretty hot and heavy and negotiations, if you will, with Chesapeake,” Williams said of the Louisville project. “The issue was we really didn’t have any land large enough for their needs.”
    The Oklahoma City-based company plans to construct buildings on 284 acres in the Beck Industrial Commerce Center, where it will centralize its Utica shale operations.
    It could be two years before construction is finished and Chesapeake Energy begins operating from buildings in the Beck Industrial Commerce Center between Route 44 and Beck Avenue.
    Chesapeake hasn’t been specific about the operations or the number of jobs that will be based at the new site. Chesapeake has about 400 employees at offices in Canton, Jackson Township and Green.
    A company spokesman could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon on Chesapeake’s plans in downtown Canton.
    ‘UTICA CAPITAL’
    At his “State of the City” address in early March, Mayor William J. Healy II dubbed Canton the “Utica Capital.” Healy said he would market the city under the moniker when aggressively trying to lure more jobs related to drilling for oil and natural gas in shale rock formations.
    “This is a fundamental turning point in our history,” Healy said Wednesday of the oil and gas boom.
    Williams said that “when we talk about this ‘Utica Capital,’ it’s really the entire area.
    “And you’ll see other companies and other organizations sort of piggybacking on that phrase,” he added.
    “I still look at it as a win because it’s very close to the Canton area, and let’s face it, there will be some Canton residents who will benefit,” Williams said of the Louisville project.
    Healy agreed.
    “It’s a big win for us,” he said. “It’s just like Diebold staying in the area ... all the those people working there keep those jobs.”
    Page 2 of 2 - “It will absolutely create jobs for people (in Canton),” Healy said of the Louisville project.
    When an oil and gas-related venture decides not locate in Canton, the city points out other potential Stark County sites so the area does not lose the opportunity for new jobs, Healy said.
    “We’re not competing with Louisville and Massillon and North Canton,” he said Wednesday.
    Healy said the city is competing for oil and gas jobs with other communities outside Stark County such as the Youngstown and New Philadelphia areas.
    ‘SHOVEL READY’
    Discussions between the city and Chesapeake on its new plans spanned about six to eight months, Williams said.
    The obstacle was that Canton did not have one large “raw” and “shovel ready” site, he said. Railroad access was another key component, Healy said.
    “Initially we were told that whatever location they decided to take, all of their jobs would go there,” Williams said. “And we had a lengthy telephone call with (McClendon),” he said. “We talked about different incentives that we could put on the table to try to lure them here, and (McClendon) vetted it with all his people (and) he said he really appreciated their efforts but the (Louisville site) was ready to go and very conducive to their needs.
    “However, because of our efforts (he would) make sure Chesapeake would have a downtown presence and they would look to hire people from Canton,” Williams said.