Earlier this month, I visited Williamsport, home of the Little League World Series and a growing economy. Clearly it’s not just baseball that brightens this central Pa. city – Williamsport has seen unemployment drop almost 20 percent in the past two years, representing jobs desperately needed in a city that last year had a poverty level 14 percent higher than the state average. One of the major reasons for this growth? According to the executive vice president of the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce, it’s Marcellus Shale.
Now, Williamsport and Lycoming County certainly aren’t the only beneficiaries of the natural gas boom, we see these stories throughout the state. What struck me is that it’s not just the natural gas industry and those involved that benefit from Marcellus Shale – it’s everyone working in Williamsport! As more people move into town to take natural gas-related jobs, foot traffic is increasing at the mall, sales are going up, and more retail jobs are being created.
According to the Department of Labor and Industry, retail hirings reached 200 in the Williamsport area, which increased the number of retail jobs to 6,700. In October, that pushed retail above its previous year’s level for the first time since October 2008.
But it’s not just job creation that’s perking up in Williamsport, it’s overall job improvement throughout the city. As a local resident pointed out to me, as new, well-paying Marcellus jobs come into town, employers in all industries throughout Williamsport have had to up their game, treating and compensating employees better because they have to compete to retain and attract good workers. In the past two years, average hourly earnings in Williamsport have gone up 16 percent.
While Williamsport still has plenty of room to grow, this is great news for a city that had a median household income that was nearly 45 percent lower than the state average in 2010. And it’s great news for our state, as the benefits of natural gas drilling continue to touch more and more Pennsylvanians.