Shell's $3.2 billion plant estimated to create 17,000 new jobs


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HARRISBURG -- The Corbett administration's top labor official says its draft job estimates for Shell Oil Co.'s proposed ethane cracker plant so far "closely align" with the industry-crafted figures it has been using to sell incentives for the facility.

Estimates from the American Chemical Council have projected that a $3.2 billion ethane-processing facility, similar to the one that Shell is considering for Beaver County, would create more than 17,000 new jobs at the plant itself and among spinoff businesses along the supply chain.

Lawmakers who may be voting next week on a lucrative annual tax credit for Shell and others locating ethane facilities in Pennsylvania have said they'd like to see more information on those job figures and other aspects of the project.

The state Department of Labor and Industry is working on its own analysis of workforce needs related to the potential new plant, though after Wednesday's news conference touting the tax-credit proposal, it declined to release specifics on its findings.

"We looked enough to know that we're in line with what's being presented, very in line," said Department of Labor and Industry Julia Hearthway. "You're going to have two different studies showing thousands of jobs."

She said the administration began its analysis -- using economic models and case studies from other states to estimate how many positions may be needed and in what sectors -- after the land-agreement in Potter Township was announced.

Creating a jobs estimate is complicated by the spinoff businesses involved, she added.

"This is different from an automotive manufacturing plant saying, 'We're going to set up a shop here and start building cars here,'" Ms. Hearthway said.

While expressing confidence the industry's job figures, Gov. Tom Corbett's general view of the potential job opportunities was more blunt: "It's going to be a lot of jobs."

Other speakers at Wednesday's event also said "a lot" is an assurance in itself, comparing it to the prospect of losing more manufacturing jobs.

"I'm already receiving numerous emails against this project, and all I have to tell those nay-sayers is, 'If you have $3 billion of your own money and you want to come invest it in Pennsylvania, come on in and we will certainly do the same thing with tax incentives for you," said Sen. John Wozniak, D-Cambria.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald also expressed strong support for the project planned for his neighboring county, saying that is "fine" with him because it will help the region overall.

"These 17,000 jobs, I feel very confident that's what's going to happen, but you never know how it's going to evolve," Mr. Fitzgerald said. "I think it actually might be more than that. In any event, it's a lot of wealth and a lot of growth and a lot of jobs for Western Pennsylvania."

With Wednesday evening's announcement of a state budget deal among Republican legislative leaders and the governor -- with the ethane tax credit as part of that framework -- a vote on the incentive looks likely to be part of the flurry of legislative action before the end of the month.

Earlier in the day, the governor indicated that the amount of available tax credits that his administration has proposed -- $66 million annually for 25 years -- could be altered in the final proposal.

"Let's see what the debate goes into," he told reporters. "I think you're going to see movement on that."

region - state - employment

Harrisburg Bureau Chief Laura Olson: lolson@post-gazette.com or 717-787-4254.


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