Tri-state economists warn leaders ‘dirty industry’ won’t bring the jobs they’re banking on

Belmont County

Some say the Ethane Cracker Plant potentially making its way to Dilles Bottom would be an investment in a dying industry.

BELMONT COUNTY, OH (WTRF) — Regional economists are warning tri-state governors that the petrochemical boom is a ‘non-starter’… meaning the Ethane Cracker Plant potentially making its way to Dilles Bottom could be a giant leap in the wrong direction. 

Citing a years-long trend of declining profit margins of the Beaver County plant, a group of faculty members from regional colleges and universities are saying the shell cracker plant model will not live up to its promise of bringing jobs and money to the Ohio Valley.  

Coined a ‘dirty industry’, increased air pollution may deter other up-and-coming business from setting up shop on Ohio Valley soil. 

Yes, we’ll have jobs for maybe five years, but after that it’s going to disappear.

Wilfrid W. Csaplar Jr., PhD, Professor of Economics at Bethany College

Competing with the already established petrochemical plants on the gulf coast, some economists say with an industry falling out of demand, building a-new will be futile. There’s an increase in supply for plastics is in China, but the demand is tanking elsewhere. 

Areas that will have an increase in demand are places like China, but they are going to be producing their own. And so, the prices have been going down, the prices will continue to go down.

Wilfrid W. Csaplar Jr., PhD, Professor of Economics at Bethany College

North America already has one large petrochemical cluster that has a first-mover advantage. It’s going to be very, very hard for anywhere else to come organically out of the ground and compete with that.

Mark Partridge, PhD, Professor of AED Economics at The Ohio State University

Many Ohio Valley residents are on board for the jobs; money. But economists are warning it may employ less Ohio Valley workers than what’s being spread. 

It’s a very efficient, capital intensive industry that doesn’t use a lot of workers. So, there’s work in terms of the initial construction. A couple thousand workers might be hired to build the plant. However, once the plant is built, they could get by on 50, 100, very few workers because they are so productive. And, they can’t employ a lot of workers if they are going to have any chance in the global petrochemical market.” 

Mark Partridge, PhD, Professor of AED Economics at The Ohio State University

With a worldwide push for cleaner energy, clearing Dillies Bottom could not only make way for a cracker plant; what about a solar field, wind turbines?  

Do you want to put a huge investment for five years or where you could put it in to some other industry, make a lot more money, and have a lot more jobs on a permanent basis?

Wilfrid W. Csaplar Jr., PhD, Professor of Economics at Bethany College

And a word of caution to leaders….  

If they squander resources on a petrochemical complex that’s not going to come about and create a lot of jobs in the long-term, we’re going to have less of the things that we need if we are going to develop, such as roads, healthcare, education and so forth.

Mark Partridge, PhD, Professor of AED Economics at The Ohio State University

7News Reached out to local government leaders who received the survey and who also happen to be proponents for establishing the cracker plant in Dillies Bottom. We will hear from at least one county leader who does not believe what the analysts are saying. We will hear from him Tuesday June 16th.

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