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The Suburbanite
  • Chambers of Commerce work together to lure business

  • Stark County chambers are no longer competing against each other in trying to lure businesses. Instead, they’ve joined forces to educate their member businesses, train the area’s workforce and recruit the energy industry to Stark County.

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  • Steven Meeks says the days of the “line drawn in the sand” are over — at least in regard to the promising oil and gas industry.
    Meeks, president of the Jackson-Belden Chamber of Commerce, said local chambers are working hand-in-hand to promote the area to the industry and are setting aside turf wars that once occurred when a new business scouted the area for a new home.
    “It’s not just what’s best for Jackson,” he said, “but how we can work together and make the most of this for all of Stark County. ... We are stronger together then when we have our own little fiefdoms.”
    The Stark County Oil & Gas Partnership was formed in August 2012 to team cities, chambers, businesses and others in an effort to learn more about the industry and how to become a player in it and also to more easily connect energy companies with local resources.
    “Everybody realizes this pie is so big that we can all have a piece of it,” said President Dave Kirven, who also leads the East Central Ohio Building and Construction Trades.
    The group held a golf outing last fall to generate startup costs and has charged entry fees to member businesses, which have nearly eclipsed 100. In January, it held an event dubbed “Choose Stark County” at the Canton Civic Center that focused on business opportunities in the energy field. At an event in Massillon in March, officials from ShaleDirectories.com, an online directory of oil and gas businesses, addressed business leaders about networking with the energy industry.
    Mark Locke, president of the Alliance Area Chamber of Commerce, said he learned a lot during a meeting with Chesapeake Energy officials. The Stark Oil & Gas Partnership has helped foster those educational opportunities since it formed — not only for the chamber’s member businesses, but for Locke himself.
    “It’s been a learning experience for all of us,” he said.
    The Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce has organized a series of seminars focusing on everything from safety to business opportunities to workforce training. It’s been aggressive in marketing the area to the energy industry. David Kaminski, director of energy and public affairs for the chamber, has also participated on several panels, including at Crain’s Cleveland Business Shale Summit. He said that despite all of the seminars he’s been a part of, “I still don’t know enough.”
    Kaminski said the chamber has invested a lot of time and resources into oil and gas because of its initial “meteoric growth” and its long-term staying power.
    “This will be with us for a long time,” he said.
    •••
    Since the oil and gas industry arrived in Stark County and the region, Stark County business organizations have tried to capitalize on the new economic development opportunities. Here are examples of what some of these organizations have been up to.
    Page 2 of 3 - Stark Development Board
    • Commissioned a position paper on hydraulic fracturing in order to educate the community about the drilling process and its perceived health and safety issues.
    “Drilling in Stark County for Marcellus and Utica Shale oil and gas will have an extraordinary impact on the local economy,” wrote the study committee, made up of area business leaders, health and education officials. “It will create jobs, encourage wider business investment in the area, and lead to greater tax revenues that can be reinvested in the county.”
    The committee acknowledged environmental and health concerns and recommended the state ensure that the proper laws are in place to make sure drilling is done safely, and that enough funding is in place for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
    Stark County Oil & Gas Partnership
    • Formed to connect business, labor and education involved in the oil and gas industry in Stark. The cities of Canton, Massillon, Alliance, North Canton and Louisville, as well as Jackson Township, their respective chambers of commerce, are among the government and business partners. Also involved are the East Central Ohio Building Construction and Trades Council, Stark State College and the Employment Source.
    • Sponsored Choose Stark County event at Canton Civic Center that focused on business opportunities in energy field.
    • Established website, www.ChooseStark.com.
    • Sponsored a networking event at the Massillon Knights of Columbus hall attended by 104 people, who represented more than 65 businesses and organizations.
    Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce could use logo with this one
    • Developed the “Utica Capital” brand that the city of Canton trademarked. The logo is used by the chamber to market the area to oil and gas businesses. Existing businesses are also using it to market themselves to drilling and related companies.
    • Organized several educational and networking seminars on the oil and gas business, including the Oil and Gas Midstream Seminar in early April at the Alex D. Krassas Event Center.
    • Entered into a contract with Shaledirectories.com, a directory of oil and gas businesses, to have its own page for local businesses.
    • Member of the steering committee of the Ohio Shale Coalition.
    Jackson-Belden Chamber of Commerce
    • Worked with oil and gas businesses and the Stark State College Oil & Gas Advisory Board to generate ideas for new curriculum to train, educate workforce. Chamber President Steven Meeks serves on advisory board.
    Massillon Area Chamber of Commerce
    • Helped recruit oil and gas service industry Baker Hughes to the city’s Northeast Ohio Commerce Park. Worked with city, Massillon Development Foundation and the owner of the 108.5-acre tract where the company will locate to replat land and dedicate right of way for extension of Millennium Boulevard SE.
    Page 3 of 3 - North Canton Area Chamber of Commerce
    • President Doug Lane and the city’s Development Director, Eric Bowles, were among the area chamber leaders to take part in the Ohio Oil & Gas Expo at Cleveland’s I-X Center in December with the Stark County Oil & Gas Partnership. Member businesses, like Graybar Electric, were vendors at the expo.
    Alliance Area Chamber of Commerce
    • Worked with existing businesses to connect them with officials in the energy industry. Meets with city and schools to talk about development projects and educational opportunities, including those related to oil and gas.
    Reach Matthew at 330-580-8527 or matthew.rink@cantonrep.com
    On Twitter: @mrinkREP