Honoring Service with Opportunity: Veteran-owned Firms Find Prosperity in PA's Gas Play

Date: November 14, 2016

By Executive State Director of NFIB Pennsylvania, Kevin Shivers

Supporting the entrepreneurial dreams of America’s veterans has been intrinsic to the mission of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), since its founding in 1943. 

As GIs returned home from Europe and the Pacific, NFIB’s founder Wilson Harder recognized the spirit and gritty determination that enabled our veterans to succeed on the battlefield would be core traits they would need to succeed in civilian life. While serving their country, soldiers routinely took big risks, persevered through difficult challenges and made split-second, courageous decisions.

Coming home, Mr. Harder believed veterans could draw on those experiences and characteristics and turn them into opportunity. He understood those traits were fundamental to every successful entrepreneur. It became NFIB’s mission to advocate for regulatory and economic policies to promote and protect the ability of entrepreneurs to run and grow their businesses. Today, veterans returning to civilian life remain very much part of our country’s small-business fabric. They own 2.5 million businesses or nearly 10-percent of all U.S. firms. 

But one result of the economic slow-down suggests those numbers may be dwindling. The skills and experience are still there, but is the opportunity?

In Pennsylvania, scores of veterans are answering that question with a resounding ‘yes’ in large part because of the state’s emerging oil and natural gas industry and the infrastructure required to bring energy to the pump and to our homes.

For the last decade, most of those job opportunities existed in the exploration and harvesting of home-grown natural gas. At its peak, natural gas development in the Marcellus created 243,000 direct and supply chain jobs. Last month, Pennsylvania’s Marcellus play produced more gas than any other state in the nation. Globally, only Russia produced more natural gas than Pennsylvania.

Today, a flurry of new activity comes as pipelines are built to give Pennsylvania’s natural gas reserves a path to market. Pipeline development enables veterans to trade their helmets for hardhats. Energy companies know soldiers bring valuable technical skills to the table as well as intangible skills such as leadership and discipline.

Williams, a pipeline infrastructure company, employs nearly 500 workers with protected veteran or military status. The project manager for UGI Energy Services’ PennEast Pipeline in Eastern Pennsylvania is a veteran who brings all of the qualities I mentioned above as well as respect for the environment to build infrastructure to ensure energy independence for the United States.

As pipeline projects like Williams’ Atlantic Sunrise or Sunoco’s Mariner East come online in Pennsylvania, an orchestra of Main Street small businesses, vendors and suppliers will be needed from start to finish. Think of all of the engineering, construction, electrical work, painting, and piping that must be done – not to mention all of the support services. The Atlantic Sunrise project alone could contribute as much as $1.6 billion in increased economic activity to local communities. You can bet many of these contractors will employ veterans or be veteran-owned!   

The multi-billion-dollar ethane cracker facility currently being constructed in western Pennsylvania will cement the state’s natural gas development and create a brand new plastics industry adding thousands of related jobs. You can rest assured Pennsylvania’s veterans will continue to benefit as employees and as business contractors as these opportunities come on line.

It’s incumbent upon all of us to support our veterans when they return home to ensure they make a successful transition to civilian life. Finding a job or planning for the future sometimes can be challenging. As we take time this week to recognize our veterans for defending our freedom and way of life, it’s exciting to think about the economic opportunities that exist in Pennsylvania’s home-grown natural gas play for veterans returning home.


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