Steubenville To Benefit From Cracker Plants

(courtesy Herald Star newspaper, Linda Harris, staff writer)

STEUBENVILLE — With one ethane cracker plant nearing completion and another inching closer to a construction announcement, Commercial real estate specialist Bryce Custer told Steubenville business leaders Monday they’re right where any entrepreneur would want to be: In the middle.

Custer, a broker with NAI Ohio River Corridor, told members of the Steubenville Revitalization Group the community can be the nexus between the Shell ethane cracker nearing completion in Monaca, Pa., a second cracker plant under consideration in Dilles Bottom and the polymer plants populating the Akron-Canton region.

“This is a marathon,” he told the business community during an informal talk at Froehlich’s Classic Corner. “What people don’t realize is what’s happening now — what’s happening in Monaca to the north, and Dilles Bottom to the south. Steubenville is in a prime location.”

Shell is nearing completion of its $6 billion-plus cracker, he pointed out. The plant is expected to be in production by the spring of 2021. PTT Global, based in Thailand, and its South Korean partner, Daelin, still haven’t announced their final investment decision about the Dilles Bottom location, though they’ve spent upward of $100 million to date on preliminary work, including land acquisition.

“Is there a chance they might not do it?” he asked. “There’s always that chance. But, if you ask me, I would gamble and say they’re going to build.”

Custer maintains PTT has no reason to make an announcement before the Shell plant is done, if only because there aren’t enough trades people to do projects of that magnitude simultaneously. He said 5,500 workers are currently on site at Shell.

“They’re not in a hurry to announce,” he added. “Where would they find the (construction workers)? Right now, they’re all employed up in (Monaca).”

He said communities need to think about what they can do to make themselves attractive, not only to outsiders but to young people making career decisions.

“It’s a timing issue,” he added. “Unfortunately, we want everything tomorrow … but it’s not going to happen overnight. Right now, we need to be planting seeds for our kids.”

Business leaders need to “talk to kids in grade school, let them know they can get great jobs when they graduate,” he added, “but the one thing they have to do is pass a drug test, that’s all.”

Not enough people can do that, he noted, referring to a recent Cleveland State University study that found 20 percent of the eligible members of the work force can’t pass a drug test.

He said communities also need to make themselves attractive to outsiders as well as to young people who will be making career decisions.

“Capitalize on the river, and not just for transportation and business,” he said. “Provide a place for our kids to live that (they won’t want to leave). How do we keep our kids here, that’s always been the question. Now we have the opportunity.”

Custer insists communities in the Marcellus and Utica shale plays saw upstream and midstream growth potential that drilling and pipeline construction brought. With Shale nearing completion and PTT Global nearing a decision, “now you’re going to see the downstream growth curve.”

“When you start seeing Shell making plastics, that’s when you’re going to see the downstream growth curve,” he said.