by Bob Zaruta, President/CEO, NWIRC

Watch out Gulf Coast! The Northeastern United States, including NW PA’s Appalachian Region, is a sleeping giant ready to awaken. For the next several years, the focus on the petrochemical industry is going to drastically change the business landscape of Northwest PA, most assuredly in manufacturing. For the last 6 decades, the Gulf Coast region has been the center of the U.S. petrochemical industry. However, the recent investment in the tri-state (PA-OH-WV) region will change the focus of this industry to our corner of the Appalachian region. There is the $6 billon Shell cracker plant currently being built in Monaca (Beaver County) PA, an estimated ~$10 billon PTT Global plant being considered in Belmont County OH, as well as a $10 billon Natural Gas Storage & Trading Hub in WV. The American Chemistry Council (ACC) notes there is enough supply of raw materials to feed at least five world scale ethylene plants in the Appalachian region. To realize the full potential of these natural gas resources, the Governors from PA, OH and WV have jointly entered into an agreement to market the tri-state region to attract new business within the petrochemical industry. Therefore, by sheer location, our northwest PA region has a competitive edge. Just as Edwin Drake changed the region in the 1800s drilling the initial oil well, there is no doubt this will change the course of our future.

Two of the by-products produced from the petrochemical industry cracker plants are ethylene and propylene. Since 2011, the ACC has been developing a series of reports analyzing the growing industry specific to manufacturing. They looked at the effects of renewed competitiveness and the supply chain among 8 key manufacturing industries: paper, chemicals, plastic and rubber products, glass, iron and steel, aluminum, foundries, and fabricated metal products. They analyzed the economic impact of shale-advantaged resin production on the plastics industry. (Plastic products are expected to grow by nearly 3% per year over the next five years.) For our region, the final end products that result from ethylene means growing opportunities for manufacturers in food packaging, toys, window frames, automotive anti-freeze, bottles, film, insultation, tires, sealants, carpet backing and more. And final products from propylene mean growing opportunities for manufacturers in furniture parts, boats, foam, coatings, lacquers, auto steering wheels, knobs, tail lights, indoor/outdoor carpeting, signs, paints, solvents, adhesives, detergents, rain coats, sweaters, lenses, light fixtures and the list goes on.

Business owners should examine their core competencies and supply chain customers while considering these questions: “How will this be an opportunity to expand my business?; What new markets can I enter?; What new customers can I serve?; How can I Iower my risk to entry; and How can I expand my workforce and the skills of my employees?

To find out more, the Northwest PA Oil & Gas Hub is hosting a Manufacturing Summit at Cross Creek Resort in Titusville on Tuesday, Sept 11th. Representatives will be providing information and discussion on the growing Petrochemical Industry, how it is going to change the NW PA business landscape, gaining entry into the supply chain, assistance available for companies, information on the Plastics Industry Partnership’s (PIP) new apprenticeship program, and more. Several presentations will conclude with an open Q&A session. For more information, go to