Railroad Helping Utica Shale Business Roll – The view out of Larry Parsons’ window in Brewster, Ohio, overlooks more than a half dozen sets of railroad tracks packed with cars. Tanker cars carry condensate, butane, propane and other hydrocarbons that are pulled from Utica Shale wells. Hopper cars are loaded with sand—shipped from Wisconsin and Illinois—that’s used to frack shale wells being drilled in eastern Ohio and southwest Pennsylvania. The crowded rail yard is a sign of changing times in eastern Ohio’s business. Its also a positive sign for the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Co., which Parsons, 73, owns and operates. Under Parsons’ direction, the company has reached beyond the steel and mining industries, finding new commodities to move and industries to serve. Development of Marcellus Shale in southwest Pennsylvania and the Utica Shale in eastern Ohio has helped the operation expand. By diversifying its customer base, Wheeling & Lake Erie has grown into an $80 million per year business. Parsons remains at the helm, but in August, he entrusted the operation to 31-year-old Jonathan M. Chastek, who steps in as president after the retirement of William A. Callison.

The company has reinvested in its operation. The company now has 60 locomotives—three times the number it operated 20 years ago. It also upgraded stretches of track, which allows for a smooth and faster ride and reduces the number of crews needed on some runs. Wheeling & Lake Erie operates on 840 miles of track in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, with connections to Norfolk and Southern, CSX and Canadian National. Its work with shale drilling is helped by the Canadian National connection at a terminal near Toledo. Shale drilling has been on Wheeling’s radar since 2008, when companies began drilling the Marcellus formation. The railroads lines pass through the well fields in southwest Pennsylvania and West Virginia. As drilling in the Utica has developed, Wheeling has added six companies on its system. The railroad also helped the Stark Development Board transform the Neomodal intermodal rail yard into a station with three companies that service the Utica shale drillers. One company supplies sand and other fracking materials, while the two other companies collect and ship natural gas liquids. Wheeling executives expect the drilling process will keep sand and stone moving into the area for another five to seven years. Production is projected to last upward to 20 years, which means the railroad will be shipping natural gas liquids for quite a while. To read more about Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway, click on this Canton Repository article.

Mount Union Ranked First in Great Lakes Region for ROI – The University of Mount Union has been ranked the top college for the money in the Great Lakes Region by collegefactual.com. College Factuals Website, Best Colleges for the Money, identifies those colleges and universities that “offer the best bang for your buck—delivering quality education and economic value.” College Factual compares academic quality with the cost of obtaining an undergraduate degree from each institution to determine rankings. “We are thrilled that this ranking reflects the quality education Mount Union provides and the preparation for meaningful careers students receive during their time here,” said University of Mount Union president Richard F. Giese. “In fact, 98% of survey respondents among the Class of 2012 secured full-time, degree-related employment or continuing education or graduate school placement in the college of their choice.” The Great lakes Region includes the states of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin. Mount Union led the top ten in the region and in Ohio topped the rankings, followed by Ohio State University, Bowling Green State University, Ohio University, Cedarville University, College of Wooster, Miami University, John Carroll University, Bluffton University and Denison University. In addition, Mount Union has been ranked by AffordableCollegesOnline.org (ACO) as one of the top schools in Ohio for having the greatest lifetime return on investment (ROI). The ROI calculation was provided by payscale.com. According to PayScales rankings, a Mount Union bachelors degree provides a 5.2% annual return on educational investment over 30 years. During that time, Mount Union graduates can expect a net ROI of $493,400 after deducting the cost of earning their diplomas and adjusting for graduation rates. To learn more about the University of Mount Unions ROI, click on this press release.

When it Comes to College, Stark Graduates Stay Close to Home – When it comes to college, Stark County high school graduates are homebodies, according to records on nearly 10,000 students in the National Student Clearinghouse Student Tracker System. Thirty percent of all college-going students enroll either at Kent Main or Kent Stark. The next most popular college destination is Stark State with 23%. Twenty percent enroll at the University of Akron, and Stark’s private universities of Malone, Mount Union and Walsh attract 14%, bringing to 87% the percentage of high school graduates who stay in the region to attend college. The most popular college destination outside of the region is The Ohio State University which draws 9% of Stark’s college enrollees. To learn more about education in Stark County, click on the Stark Education Partnership Website.

Team NEOs Regional Quarterly Review Highlights Headquarters Employment – The Quarterly Economic Review for Northeast Ohio shows that our region has the fourth strongest headquarters employment share in the nation. Northeast Ohio headquarters employment has grown from 19,000 employees in 1990 to nearly 49,000 in 2013. While US headquarters employment increased by 22% during that time frame, Northeast Ohio’s grew by 160%. The report also highlighted economic development activity during the second quarter. Among the activities highlighted were two Stark County developments. The Timken Company and Stark State College collaborated to open a cutting-edge, 18,000-square-foot Technology and Test Center—the first of its kind in America. The $14 million center tests ultra-large bearings systems on sophisticated equipment that simulates harsh operating conditions such as those found in large wind turbines. Also highlighted was the dedication of the $5.1 million Energy Drive in Louisville which opens up the Beck Industrial Park to Chesapeake Energy’s development for the Utica Shale region. To learn more about what is happening in Northeast Ohio, click on this Cleveland Plus Quarterly review.

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