Energy, ag are county’s best hope


The time to seek improved economic growth in Marion County can’t wait for a more practical time in the future.

Marion County needs a concentration on base industry that has a multiplier effect to create secondary businesses such as retailers. The rules of economics dictate that a basic industry job, such as a farmer or a worker in the Hillsboro Industrial Park, can generate as many as seven other jobs in services such as retailing.

Marion County lost another 1,000 people in population in the last census. The county dropped to more than 12,000 people this census from the former level of more than 13,000. The county had more than 20,000 persons at the beginning of the 1950s.

If this trend for the county is to be reversed, the time to take action is now—not wait for some magic bullet in the future while decline continues.

I realize many of us here value living in spacious surroundings, but it may not be entirely good for us to face the world without neighbors.

Obviously, the county has a lot going for it with a farm grain crop base able to produce increased income, and the accompanying services of grain handling, processing for feeds, machinery dealers and chemical providers that go with it.

It would be good for more development in agriculture and agricultural support to happen.

The county also has the beginning of a good industrial base with small manufacturers and processors.

Perhaps the best next base industry the county should seek is the energy industry, with county and city governments actively cooperating in bringing it here.

Mitt Romney has it right in his presidential campaign when he says the country needs to free the oil and natural gas producers to use horizontal drilling, and allow them to build more refinery capacity with safe environmental consideration, but without radicalized environmental suppression.

The best I have seen from Barack Obama’s competing campaign on energy matters has been to take credit for aiding a TransCanada Keystone pipeline to the Gulf, which the candidate actually impeded in further expansion, while he promoted national health care, and his wife led in limiting school lunches.

There have been stories and testimonies in the Free Press that horizontal, or “frack” drilling, could bring a reborn and bigger petroleum industry to the county.

The county already is penciled in on some state maps as a leading or potentially leading natural gas producer.

There needs to be leadership from city and county economic development directors in promoting this gas production.

And, the same leadership needs to be exploring what can be done now, immediately, while cheap gas is sought for electrical generation, to bring an electrical generation plant to Marion County.

Although there are several major oil companies that could do horizontal drilling in Marion County, one I watch especially for any indication is Linn Energy of Houston, Texas.

This $8.23 billion company is now one of the top 10 oil companies in the United States. One major move it has made in Kansas is to buy out British Petroleum’s natural gas interests in the Hugoton Field of southwest Kansas.

It already has bought out other interests, including BP properties in Wyoming and Texas in the last year, with rumors of expansion in Oklahoma.

Linn recently announced that during the third quarter of this year it drilled nine horizontal wells with high daily productions of oil, natural gas liquids and natural gas.

Any such drilling activity could vastly expand the wealth frame of Marion County.

The company’s interests are half oil, half gas.

I feel that if Linn, or a like company, ever comes here, the oil and gas industry in Marion County will pop, explode, grow excitingly bigger. Anyway, it will be something beyond what a county concerned with economic debasement has come to expect.

Energy and agriculture are Marion County’s base foundations for the future.


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