Shell said “Yes” to Pennsylvania. What comes next?

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A month ago today, Shell Chemical delivered a ‘game-changer’ to the future of Pennsylvania with the announcement of the company’s decision to build an ethane cracker plant in Beaver County. This multi-billion dollar facility– which is the first major U.S. petrochemical project of its type outside of the Gulf Coast region – is projected to support up to 6,000 construction jobs during peak periods, and at least 600 full-time positions once the plant is completed.

The reason Pennsylvania is so well-positioned to host a plant of this magnitude is a result of three major factors: our location and proximity to 70 percent of the North American polyethylene customers and major markets, our abundant raw materials that can be turned into goods to make products for sale, and our highly-skilled workforce, unmatched in the country. But beyond the announcement and the win for Pennsylvania, what will the larger picture look like when the plant is finished? What downstream opportunities will exist for Pennsylvania’s economic landscape?

Beyond its own direct jobs and investment, Shell’s plant is creating economic opportunities for our communities in Southwestern Pennsylvania and all across our state. Once up and in full production, the new ethane cracker plant will use low-cost ethane from shale gas producers in the Marcellus and Utica basins to produce 1.6 million metric tons of polyethylene a year. Polyethylene is an important component of plastics and is a major building block for expanding Pennsylvania’s plastics industry. The polyethylene produced at Shell’s plant will be transported in pellet form to downstream customers eager to transform it into a variety of plastics-based products. This is a remarkable opportunity – a once-in-a-generation event – that is creating a foundation for a whole new set of manufacturing products.

This ready supply of polyethylene can be used to manufacture a range of products from consumer goods like bottles, food packaging, diapers, footwear, clothing, and textiles, to construction materials such as flooring, insulation, pipes, carpet backing, window sashes, and siding. Pennsylvania is already known for its manufacturing industries (with the eighth largest output in the nation), but this facility will serve as the centerpiece in the region for the creation of new markets for polyethylene, with added potential of attracting additional manufacturing investments that will lead to even more business attraction and job creation for generations to come.

We have the feedstock and the workforce to support all of the downstream opportunities, as well as the training and partnerships to allow businesses to flourish, such as the Beaver County Energy & Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, which was established to help trade schools, colleges, universities, major companies, and local school districts collaborate on workforce readiness programs.

My administration is committed to ensuring that we have an arsenal of pad-ready sites to support business expansions near this site and all across the commonwealth. Having these sites enables communities to attract businesses by helping them build an inventory of ready sites. When a business identifies an opportunity to grow, it needs ready-to-build sites now, and many times does not have the luxury of waiting two years for a site to be ready. That is why I am working to increase funding to support the Business in Our Sites program to ensure that Pennsylvania boasts an inventory of ready-to-go sites.

We know that Shell’s plant shines a spotlight on Pennsylvania as a new petrochemical hub in the northeast, and we welcome the business it will bring. Our message is clear – Pennsylvania is ready to work with businesses to create jobs and achieve shared prosperity across our state. To work with the state on your next project and to be a part of this exciting history in the making, contact the Governor’s Action Team today.

To stay informed about the growth of Pennsylvania’s manufacturing and energy industries, sign up for DCED’s e-newsletter, bookmark the #PAProud blog, and follow us on Twitter at @GovernorTomWolf, @DCEDSecretary and @newPAnews while joining in the conversation using #ShellinPA.

UPDATE- 8/29/16

The Department of Community and Economic Development’s Secretary Dennis Davin hosted a series of roundtable discussions with state and community leaders and business representatives to discuss how communities can leverage potential investments and development opportunities related to Royal Dutch Shell’s decision to build a new ethane cracker plant. These roundtables take a long-term look at the cracker plant’s potential economic impact in the state.

Community Roundtables


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