Booms, busts and rushes. American history is filled with them. During the Gold Rush, thousands went West in search of riches. Now, people are looking for wealth in a new direction – down. What’s in those shale deposits below our feet may change rural communities forever. Rachel Lundberg brings us the story.
When you used to think of Carroll County, you’d think fields, tractors and cows. Now, it’s pipelines, derricks and roustabouts. This sleepy little county is the destination for would-be oil and gas tycoons.
Bill Johnson, Ohio’s sixth district congressman, has high hopes.
It’s going to be an opportunity for everyone.
Amy Rutledge, director of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, says since frackers have come sales tax revenue is up 31 percent, from about $1 million to $1.6 million.
Carroll County is a community of less than 30,000 people for the entire county so those numbers are dramatic.
Carrollton Mayor Frank Leghart has noticed other changes, like more than a two point drop in unemployment and a lot more traffic.
I remember when I first moved to Carrollton a little over 10 years ago, you could drive from one end of town to the other end of town in just about the blink of an eye.
He says today traffic is constant in the county seat of little more than 3,000 people, often starting early in the morning and running through the evening.
Johnson compares the influx of frackers and other oil industry workers in eastern Ohio with that of North Dakota’s Bakken Shale deposit.
Out there you have people living out of tents and motor homes. Living with relatives. Their unemployment rate is 3 percent and falling because of all the jobs that are being created.
But Carrollton natives, used to living more conservatively, aren’t getting their hopes high just yet. Paul Feezel, chair of Carrollton Concerned Citizens, says he doesn’t expect this boom to last forever.
There’s no doubt that whether it’s coal mining, whether it’s the first oil boom, whether it’s this oil boom, someday this will be a bust cycle.
Leghart is planning for when the drillers eventually leave.
Gas and oil drillers aren’t going to be here forever. So we need to try to maintain the integrity of the village and we need to do what we can do now.
Feezel says the community plans to ride the wave of industry for as long as possible.
Now the question is, is it going to be one year, five years, 25 years until that bust cycle? We don’t really know. I think this is one of those ones where the community is putting itself out there and saying we hope that the boom is worth the bust.
Whatever happens in the decades to come, Carroll County citizens have some changes to get used to for the time being with the additional traffic, people and noise.
This is just one in a series of stories The News Outlet will bring you about the gas and oil industry expansion in Ohio. Reporting for TheNewsOutlet.org, I’m Rachel Lundberg.