Thrasher: Shale gas the future for West Virginia

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher said shale gas is the future of economic opportunity in the state.

Speaking before a crowd of industry professionals at the opening of the West Virginia Manufacturers Association’s Marcellus and Manufacturing Development Conference in Morgantown on Wednesday, Thrasher said the state has yet to realize the full potential of shale gas.

After listing some of the state's numerous economic development projects — including endeavors in the aerospace, automotive and manufacturing industries — Thrasher said the industry with the biggest potential for growth has only begun to emerge.

“Quite frankly, all three things, even collectively, pale in comparison to the opportunities that this shale gas initiative provides,” he said. “It has struck me how incredibly enormous the potential is. It has struck me that it, in and of itself, can completely reinvigorate the state which I love so much.”

For too long, Thrasher said, West Virginia has allowed factors outside of the state to determine its economic fate.

“The truth is West Virginia is full of lost opportunities,” he said. “And the truth is we have blamed outside influences for those circumstances for many, many years."

Thrasher urged conference attendees to not let shale become another “lost opportunity.”

“We don’t want to repeat the patterns that did for the last 100 years,” he said. “Where we take those raw materials — whether its coal or timber or oil and gas —and we send them somewhere else to be refined and processed and to add value to there.”

In order to break this pattern, Thrasher said industry professionals have to work alongside government officials.

“I would suggest to you that you have a job to do,” he said. “This crowd has the opportunity to really impact. You have the opportunity to impact Legislatures and presidents.”

Thrasher called on audience members to each do their part to ensure the industry's continued growth.

“My challenge to everybody that’s hearing this is: Go home and do something to make this really come about.”

Kathy Beckett of the Bridgeport law firm Steptoe & Johnson said Thrasher, who transitioned from the private sector in to politics, is uniquely positioned to help the state plan its economic future.

“He’s been a servant in the way that entrepreneurs and innovators are always servants,” she said. “They always take on more, and that’s what’s happened in this instance. Gov. Jim Justice has invited Woody to leave the entrepreneurial, business world and his very successful engineering business to become a public servant to the state of West Virginia. And that is what he has done.”

This article was authored by Charles Young for the Clarksburg Exponent Telegram. Click here to read it on the publication's website.