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Your Business and Marcellus Shale

Posted: December 12, 2010

Opportunities available for businesses in the Marcellus shale can be found with some work. Here are some suggestions for exploring those opportunities.
Courtesy of Bob Blair

Courtesy of Bob Blair

by Jon Laughner, Beaver County Extension Director, Marcellus Education Team

Drilling each Marcellus well requires more than 410 individuals, about 150 different occupations, and requires almost 12 full-time direct employees. There will have been 1200-1300 new Marcellus wells drilled in PA during 2010, with an estimate of even higher numbers next year.

If you’re a budding entrepreneur or small business person, are there opportunities for you in this growing industry? With more than $2.7 billion spent by the Marcellus industry for products and services in 2009, opportunities abound.

But the question always asked is, what are those opportunities and how do I get involved? Today we’re going to talk about some of those opportunities and how to uncover them.

Curiosity and education are key to learning how you might benefit and fit in this industry. From reading news reports and trade journals a person can get general ideas of the types of products and services required. Let’s see: welding, hydraulics, excavation, trucking, and electrical. 

A start, but we need to dig deeper. Attend the next Marcellus Expo event in your area. Stop by the major Marcellus industry displays and talk with their representatives. Ask them what their greatest needs are, what do they have plenty of, and where they are drilling. If you already have a business, be forthright and ask for the name and contact information of the appropriate purchasing representative.

While you’re at this event, go to some displays of companies that might be competitors of yours and gather some competitive intelligence. Ask questions about their company; is it growing, can they keep up with business, what have been the challenges, and do they see other opportunities.

You’ll find trade journals and industry organizations also promoting themselves at these events. Pickup a sample publication and membership application. When you get home, read the articles and study the advertisements. Digging a little deeper will uncover the industry need for GIS services, fencing, irrigation, and landscape services.

Don’t forget the personal needs of the employees at the drill site. Many of them work long hours and can’t leave the site during work and their down time is limited. Where are they getting meals, their oil changed in their vehicles, clothes washed, and banking services?

With every opportunity usually come challenges. While the Marcellus industry is extremely competitive and price sensitive, it is also reliant on customer service. Drilling rigs operate 24/7 and cost tens of thousands of dollars per hour even when not drilling. A breakdown in the middle of the night or Thanksgiving morning may require your immediate attention.

Treat this industry as you would any sales opportunity. Become knowledgeable of the business, competitors, and the opportunities and challenges. Be honest, ethical, and tenacious.