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Chesapeake plans offices for St. Clairsville

October 20, 2011
By CASEY JUNKINS - Special to the Herald-Star , The Intelligencer

ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Chesapeake Energy plans to build administrative offices on nearly 30 acres of land at Fox Commerce Park, Belmont County officials said Wednesday.

"When you now see that this major energy company is coming in, it is really amazing," said Sue Douglass, executive director of the Belmont County Community Improvement Corp. and Department of Development. "From the CIC and the county's perspective, this is confirmation that the county is in the middle of something big."

That "something" is the natural gas boom that has attracted international firms like Exxon Mobil, via subsidiaries XTO Energy and Phillips Resources, and New York City-based Hess Corp. with its acquisition of Marquette Exploration. These companies are staking claims in the Utica shale that lies beneath Belmont, Harrison and Jefferson counties.

Now, Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake, which has been drilling wells and acquiring land in the Marcellus shale across West Virginia and Pennsylvania for a few years, plans to make significant investments in Ohio. Chief Executive Officer Aubrey McClendon has estimated the value of Ohio's share of the Utica at about $500 billion, noting the rock formation may be the "biggest thing economically to hit Ohio, since maybe the plow."

"This is the largest single purchase we've ever had at the park," Douglass noted of the acreage that she said would be located across from the FedEx building at Fox Commerce Park, which now features 12 operational businesses on its 125 acres. "We are really glad they are at the park - it really shows how diverse it is."

Douglass said Belmont County commissioners voted to transfer the property to her organization during their Wednesday meeting so the land could be sold to Chesapeake. She declined to say how much the company is paying for the site, noting the deal is not yet officially final and the information should be available in a few days.

Douglass also did not want to reveal the full scope of the building, noting only that it would be for administrative offices.

Stacey Brodak, director of corporate development for Chesapeake, simply said the company is in "negotiations to purchase property in St. Clairsville, Ohio."

According to Chesapeake's website, the company maintains three regional offices - Shreveport, La.; Fort Worth, Texas; and Charleston, W.Va. - in addition to its headquarters in Oklahoma City. There are numerous smaller "field offices" across the nation, with the closest being in Canonsburg, Pa.

County Commissioner Matt Coffland also believes the land will be used for office space.

"The gas and oil business is a big boom for Belmont County," he said, noting other companies in the business also have inquired about purchasing land from the county.

"It also spurs retail and other types of businesses," Coffland said. "It's good to see that things are growing in Belmont County."

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