Mining Utica shale will impact all of Licking County, said Pataskala Mayor Steve Butcher, and all Licking County communities need to be ready for it.

Mining Utica shale will impact all of Licking County, said Pataskala Mayor Steve Butcher, and all Licking County communities need to be ready for it.

"We're in the thick of it, no matter what," he said.

Butcher attended the Licking County Energy Summit, where community leaders and experts in the fields of energy and manufacturing gathered March 22 on the campus of Central Ohio Technical College and Ohio State University at Newark for a summit focused on the economic development future of the region.

Several guest speakers addressed many topics, from the impact of the Utica shale on the regional economy to the future of the region's manufacturing industry.

The Utica shale is a deep-earth rock unit that stretches across the eastern half of Ohio, south into Virginia and Tennessee and northeast into the New England states.

Butcher said that while the Pataskala area doesn't necessarily have as much Utica shale as other parts of Licking County, the entire county and central Ohio should reap the economic benefits of drilling for gas and oil.

"There was a ton of great information," he said.

It's not only the drilling of the wells that should benefit the county, Butcher said, but all the related industries as well, such as welding of the pipelines and transportation of the products. He said it's important for Pataskala to take all the oil related activity into account as it plans for the future.

Pataskala city administrator Tim Boland agreed.

"I thought the energy summit was very timely and provided great information on a very important topic," Boland said. "Energy from the Utica shale certainly has the potential to change the economy of our region, and we need to do what we can as local leaders to promote responsible economic growth, job creation and environmental safety."

"This is a big deal for the county," said Licking County Commissioner Tim Bubb. "We're where Pennsylvania was in 2005 and 2006, right on the cusp. It looks like it's going to be a job creator in eastern Ohio."

He said that while he and his fellow commissioners are familiar with the impact that drilling Utica shale will have on the county, physically and economically, the energy summit was for many people a first opportunity to gather information about it and consider all the related issues.

Guest speaker Rhonda Reda, executive director of the Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program, said it's too early to say specifically how many jobs drilling and its related industries will generate for Licking County in the coming years, but she said her organization is working closely with COTC and C-TEC to provide training for welders, drivers and machinists.

"It's those trades that will really be in enormous demand," Reda said, adding that local schools are also readying programs for instruction relating to Utica shale and its mining.

Reda said that more than 2,800 wells should be drilled and completed statewide by 2015. Eighteen wells were drilled in Licking County last year, and of those 18 there was only one dry hole.

"Licking County has always been in the top (producing) counties in Ohio," she said. "Licking County has a great geological gift, very good reserves."

Reda said oil companies are still in the seismic survey and land-leasing stages right now, and it could be a couple of years before the major drilling activity begins.

Energy summit speaker Eric Burkland, president of the Ohio Manufacturer's Association, said Licking County and Ohio have many reasons to be optimistic about the future of manufacturing.

"My message is a message of hope," he said, adding that economic trends are pointing to a manufacturing renaissance following the last 10 years, which were dismal. "There is a tremendous opportunity for us in Ohio and Licking County."

He said the manufacturers that survived the Great Recession are excellent and the cost of doing business overseas in places like China is increasing. Burkland said by 2015 there will be many places in the United States where manufacturing will be more economical than in China.

"These big, powerful things are pointing our way," he said. "This is a generational opportunity and we need to get it right."

The summit was held at the John Gilbert Reese Center.

The Licking County Chamber of Commerce, Grow Licking County, City of Heath, C-TEC, Southgate, The Energy Cooperative, Central Ohio Technical College, The Ohio State University at Newark, and the Licking County Port Authority all collaborated to organize the summit.