MUNCY - A gas industry "field of dreams" is rising up out of a former corn field in Muncy and Muncy Creek townships.
On Thursday, state, county and local officials, developers and others gathered to celebrate a natural gas industrial park being developed on more than 200 acres along Industrial Park Road in Muncy Industrial Park.
The property, which is owned by Fishlips LLC, a partnership between local developers Brent M. Fish and Dan Klingerman, will have as its anchor tenant Weatherford International Ltd., a global gas industry technology and support company.
The company already has broken ground on a facility, the shell of which served as a backdrop for the celebration.
According to Jerry Banta, northeast area manager for Weatherford, the facility will house hydraulic fracturing technology and equipment such as pumps, trucks and sand haulers.
Also housed in the facility will be "fishing" equipment used to retrieve broken equipment stuck in well holes, and wire line services, which enables tools to be attached to electrical wires rather than pipes.
"We fish stuff that down in the hole - lost equipment - that won't come out," Banta said. "We go get it and we're real successful at doing it."
Once the facility is completed, between 200 and 250 people will be employed there, Banta said.
Six or seven other companies have shown interest in the park, which has access to rail service, is a Keystone Opportunity Zone - which exempts it from state, county, local and school district taxes for a predetermined number of years - and is zoned for heavy industrial use, Fish said.
"I've never seen anything like this in my life," Fish said of the development activity spurred by natural gas development.
Banta said the site was attractive to his company because it is ideally situated in the northern portion of the Marcellus Shale play. The company also was impressed with the welcome it received from local officials and residents.
"It is a place located where our customers will be doing the drilling," he said. "We also got a great reception from local government and citizens. We felt at home right away."
Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce President Vincent Matteo called the celebration "an exciting day for all of Lycoming County" and a true testament to what partnerships between the public and private sectors can accomplish.
The Chamber's Industrial Properties Corp. holds the mortgage on the property and provided $250,000 to develop an access road to the site, Matteo said.
State Sen. E. Eugene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, who Matteo described as one of the leaders in Harrisburg regarding Marcellus Shale development, said many legislators either don't know or don't care about natural gas development except as a potential income source for the state.
Yaw said he recently met with a committee and was dismayed at the lack of knowledge its members had about the Marcellus Shale.
"I can't believe we're so far into this and these people are so clueless about what's happening here," he said.
Yaw touted the economic benefits of developing natural gas in Pennsylvania, including a projected 100,000 jobs and $1 billion in tax revenue created this year - and that while the state is mired in a recession.
"That is a pretty significant impact on our state," Yaw said.
State Rep. Garth Everett, R-Muncy, also expressed concern at how uninformed politicians in Harrisburg - and residents in more populated areas of the state - are about the natural gas industry.
"It's a real steep educational curve in Harrisburg," Everett said. "Most people living south of I-80 don't have an understanding of this development - or rural Pennsylvania in general."
Lycoming County Commissioner Jeff C. Wheeland said there is an "old adage that it is better to be lucky than good."
"In Lycoming County, we're both," Wheeland said.
The county is lucky because it sits astride the northcentral epicenter of the Marcellus Shale, officials say. It is good because county government and others saw the potential for gas development and formed the Community Gas Exploration Task Force to help develop policy that would promote responsible natural gas development in the county.
The county is lucky because it has developable land on which gas companies can build, and good because developers such as Fish and Klingerman are willing to prepare sites for those companies to locate on, he said.