Three years ago, Tim Schoen was a sports reporter intern covering Penn State football games for the Altoona Mirror and on track to become a journalist.
Today, Schoen is one of the thousands of Pennsylvanians employed in a job created indirectly by the Commonwealth’s developing natural gas industry.
A 2013 Penn State graduate, Schoen acquired a marketing analyst position with Borton-Lawson, a Wilkes-Barre Township-based engineering and architecture firm.
The firm assists natural gas companies with well-site selection, design, permitting and construction administration.
So how did a young reporter obtain a job with a firm associated with the natural gas industry?
As his graduation date drew near, the Scranton native started to second-guess his career choice.
“As my college career was winding down, I was not sure if journalism was the right path for me,” he said. “Journalism is highly competitive and hard to get in.”
On a fate-changing Saturday during his senior year, Schoen attended an event held by the Penn State University Public Relations Students Society of America, an on-campus public relations organization.
The event featured marketing representatives from the natural gas industry discussing the variety of career opportunities.
At this time, Schoen, whose hometown of Scranton was not far from where the gas extraction boom in Pennsylvania’s northern counties was happening, knew a little about the natural gas industry.
Jobs in the field, he thought, consisted primarily of construction, engineering, truck drivers and surveyors. Industry-related jobs had typically been thought of as restaurant, retail or hospitality staff.
But the PRSSA event proved to be an eye-opening experience.
He remembered listening to speakers Rob Boulware of Seneca Resources and Brittany Thomas of Cabot Oil & Gas, who discussed the availability of non-technical jobs.
Schoen was surprised to learn about the need of marketing services created by the gas industry.
The impact of jobs spawned by the Commonwealth’s natural gas industry created a ripple effect, reaching ancillary industries such as marketing, real estate, business, information systems and hospitality fields, said Susan Spry, vice president for Workforce and Community Development at Luzerne County Community College in Nanticoke.
In the third quarter of 2014, about 89,314 Commonwealth residents were employed by the natural gas companies, by industry suppliers or by businesses that supply services to gas industry employees, according to the Pennsylvanian Department of Labor and Industry.
The state agency also reported “direct employment in natural gas development grew from 9,659 to 33,137 over the past seven years.”
This industry growth has created 15,648 jobs with suppliers and 20,269 jobs with companies that provide goods and services to gas industry employees, according to the state Department of Labor and Industry.
The job uptick in Luzerne County and its surrounding counties does not seem to be leveling off. Natural gas pipelines plans awaiting approval from Federal Energy Regulation Commission will create an additional surge of employment opportunities.
Chris Stockton, a spokesman for Williams, said a Penn State economics study on the planned Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline reported 2,300 direct job opportunities with $245 million in direct labor income will be generated. The pipeline is estimated to create nearly 6,000 indirect jobs, Stockton said.
Atlantic Sunrise and PennEast pipelines are planned to cross Northeastern Pennsylvania to transport natural gas to other markets.
The Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline consists of 57 miles of a 30-inch pipeline starting in Susquehanna County and reaching into Columbia County. Plus, a 42-inch, 125-mile pipeline starting in Columbia County and ending in Lancaster County and several above-ground facilities.
The PennEast Pipeline will pump nearly one billion cubic feet of gas a day through a five-county path from Luzerne County into New Jersey.
“The pipelines will create a pipeline of opportunities,” Susan Kornick, a spokeswoman with PennEast Pipeline said.
An economic study on the PennEast Pipeline is expected to create nearly 12,000 jobs during the pipeline construction period and 2,000 jobs following construction, Kornick said.
Common indirect jobs created by the pipelines include marketing, real estate appraisals, legal consultants, tree clearing, road repair crews, housing, fuel providers, hardware stores. A increased demand on these industries may create another ripple effect in their respective fields, Kornick said.
Kornick added other indirect employment created by the pipelines includes Geo-Technicians, environmental specialists and engineering firms.
Reach Eileen Godin at 570-991-6387 or on Twitter @TLNews.