By Jim Martin

The state Department of Environmental Protection’s most recent report on gas well permits suggests that the shale drilling boom has yet to arrive in our corner of Pennsylvania.

So far, no shale wells have been drilled or permitted in Erie or Crawford counties.

It’s only a matter of time before that changes, said Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group with more than 300 members.

“There is no reason why the birthplace of the oil and gas industry won’t play a major role,” Klaber said Monday morning during a break from a seminar at Penn State Behrend, sponsored by the coalition, the Northwest Industrial Resource Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

That’s more than just wishful thinking by drilling advocates.

Erie County residents sit atop two major gas-producing rock formations, the Marcellus Shale and the deeper Utica Shale.

In this region, gas reserves within the Utica Shale are thought to be more plentiful.

Klaber said the fact that the drilling started in other parts of Pennsylvania doesn’t mean that activity won’t expand.

Gas demand and prices, which are low, will likely determine the timetable for when shale drilling does begin here, she said.

That’s already happening in other parts of northwestern Pennsylvania.

Through Sunday, 74 shale wells had been permitted in Clarion County, 179 in Elk County and 211 in Potter County, according to DEP.

But the financial effects of the shale gas already are being felt here, Klaber said.

Ask Karen Thomas, vice president of human resources for Warren-based Pennsylvania General Energy.

She said her company has recently added 70 employees, including technicians, engineers and environmental specialists.

“I see that number increasing,” she said.

Klaber said there’s also a growing need for gas industry-related legal services and higher demand for employees in environmental services.

Monday’s seminar, attended by about 100 people, focused on how manufacturers and other companies can become suppliers to the shale gas industry.

“Erie already has this strong manufacturing tradition,” Klaber said, explaining that manufacturers have an opportunity to land a share of the business related to the industry.

“It’s an opportunity to help businesses understand how to unlock the supply chain,” she said.

In a global sense, Klaber said, this development and the jobs it can create are in our backyard.

“We are developing this in Pennsylvania and Ohio vs. someplace like Texas and Canada,” she said. “Erie is not so far away from the center of this.”

NOTE: Click HERE to view this story online. Also, both WJET-TV and WICU-TV provide supply chain forum coverage.