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Marcellus Shale Entrepreneurial Opportunities: A Business Profile of PAGasDirectory.com

Posted: July 11, 2010

Penn State Extension has been conducting programs for business owners and managers interested in developing new opportunities or expanding their firm's involvement in natural gas activities. This article, the second in a series of profiles of local entrepreneurs, describes PAGasDirectory.com and how its owner created the business after attending one of these Extension programs. We will continue to profile other businesses to demonstrate the pathways by which entrepreneurs identify and pursue opportunities related to natural gas.

By Dawn Gannon & Kathy Brasier

While attending one of Penn State Extension’s webinar series “Your Business & Marcellus Shale,” Joe Barone saw the opportunity to connect gas workers coming from out of state with local businesses providing needed services. As a result, Barone developed PAGasDirectory.com, which points workers in the direction of everything they could need in their new home—temporary or permanent.

To get started, Barone purchased a database of over 116,000 PA businesses which he made available on his website. Workers simply visit the website, select a county, and then browse for the type of business or service they need, be it a laundromat, mechanic, or dentist. With the full support of the gas companies, Barone has seen his business increase dramatically. He says that most companies send out e-mails promoting his website and some even include the web address on their corporate intranets.

Barone test-marketed the program in Pennsylvania's Northern Tier, with Lycoming County the most developed county on the website. However, he says that since its launch on February 15, 2010, the website’s traffic has been growing weekly.

Businesses can use the free basic listing to promote themselves on PAGasDirectory.com, or they can upgrade to a gold or platinum listing. A gold upgrade includes a link to the business website, an e-mail link, the business’s own logo, and a 128-character description of the business and its services. A platinum listing adds Google maps and a longer business description. About 20 companies have upgraded their listings to date.

Barone stresses maintaining the quality of the site and using multiple marketing and advertising techniques. The site is linked to multiple search engines, and receives a strong Google page ranking, indicating it is well linked with other websites. Barone promotes the website with billboard advertising, and during the winter months, with TV advertising on channels likely to be seen by gas workers in hotels, restaurants and bars. One hotel keeps the PAGasDirectory.com homepage on the monitors in their lobbies to give the workers quick access.

The most important idea that Barone wants to convey about his business is that it is a win-win situation for Pennsylvania businesses and for the gas workers and their families. He desires to help business owners understand the needs of gas workers and their families and to make sure workers are aware of the local businesses and what they have to offer. Barone gives most of the credit for getting started in his business to Penn State Extension. “Kudos to Penn State Cooperative Extension. We would not have this business if it wasn’t for them.”

For questions about PAGasDirectory.com, please contact Joe Barone at (610) 764-1232 or at jbarone@pagasdirectory.com. You can also explore the website at www.pagasdirectory.com.

The business development webinar series in which Mr. Barone participated have been very well received by small and medium-sized businesses throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New York. Recordings from the past two series can be viewed online. A third series titled “Your Business & Marcellus Shale: Building Business Connections” is currently underway. Check out the information website for more details and to find a location near you.