Even before the early Thursday announcement that West Virginia will potentially see $83.7 billion in investment from China Energy for shale gas and chemical manufacturing projects over 20 years, things were looking up for the Mountain State economy.
Voters last month approved a $1.6 billion road bond project that will bring thousands of construction and related jobs, not to mention new and improved roads and bridges to support economic growth.
Proctor & Gamble is constructing a $500 million plant in the Eastern Panhandle, and both Toyota and Hino Motors announced expansions of $115 million and $100 million; respectively, each adding jobs, opportunity and revenue.
“I think you can unequivocally count on the fact that, over the next couple of years, there’s going to be a dramatic upswing in West Virginia’s economy, state Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher said last week at the Education Alliance’s annual summit.
Perhaps Thrasher was alluding to the memorandum of understanding that he would sign with China Energy President Ling Wen across the globe one week later. But he could be excused if he were simply referring to the already announced infrastructure and manufacturing projects.
But now, after what Gov. Jim Justice termed “the largest investment in our state’s history,” those projects almost seem like small potatoes.
“The massive size of this energy undertaking and level of collaboration between our two countries is unprecedented,” Thrasher said in the announcement of the agreement.
Projects that may come about from the agreement will focus on power generation, chemical manufacturing and underground storage of natural gas liquids and derivatives
Of course, like any announcement, there are no guarantees that all, or any, of the investment will come through.
But the initial commitment by China Energy, the world’s largest energy company, shows the value of the Marcellus and Utica shale reserves in the West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania region.
If even only part of the investment comes through, it can still help the region develop and operate an ethane storage hub to capture the valuable natural gas liquids embedded in the region’s gas. That in itself will be a huge regional economic boost.