WHEELING - In a once-vacant building in South Wheeling, Brett Francis and Michael Siebieda are welding, cutting and fabricating their way into the Marcellus and Utica shale rush.
"We feel really confident that the gas and oil industry will give us a lot of work," said Siebieda, co-owner of Arrowsmith Fabrication at the corner of 42nd and Wood streets.
"We feel like we are on the 1 yard line waiting to punch the ball into the end zone," he added in describing how close he believes the new company is to gaining contracts to perform field work for the oil and gas industry. The Wheeling residents are so confident in their ability to perform the specialized work associated with the natural gas industry that they left secure jobs to start their own business in South Wheeling. Together, they have 52 years of experience in welding and machining.
"We started working out of a garage. Now, we have moved into this building because we know how much potential there is to grow in an operation like this," said Siebieda. "This is just the beginning."
"There is so much work out there. We want to hire. We feel good about the prospect of being able to get people good jobs working for these gas companies," Francis said.
The Arrowsmith shop is an example of one of the many service businesses that can be created in the local area because the natural gas and oil extraction is taking place.
"There is so much work out there. We are just getting started by meeting with people and getting our name out there," said Siebieda.
One company with whom Siebieda and Francis said they signed a "master service agreement" is Williams. They said this allows them to do business with the company, though they do not yet have any contracted work for Williams.
Though Williams spokesman Scott Carney said he did not immediately know about this, Williams is the company now operating the former Caiman Energy processing plant along U.S. Route 250 between Cameron and Moundsville. The Tulsa, Okla.-based company plans to build $1.34 billion worth of additional processing capacity in Marshall County, meaning Williams will have spent $3.84 billion for infrastructure in northern West Virginia.
Williams also is taking over part of the building home to TeleTech in Moundsville. The large structure near the south end of the city is owned by the Wheeling-based Regional Economic Development Partnership, from whom TeleTech rents space.
Francis and Siebieda also thanked RED for assisting them along the way, as well as Main Street Bank for granting them loans to get started. They also thanked the building's owner, Gary West, for being "very good to us" in terms of a lease agreement.
Siebieda and Francis see nothing but opportunity for growth and work for those willing to put in the time and effort to gain jobs in these fields.
"We have talked to some specialized welders. They are looking to get started in the industry, and this is a place they can do that," Siebieda said.
"It may be difficult to get skilled labor, but there are also skilled workers out there who just need an opportunity," he added.