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Natural gas boom boosts companies from coast-to-coast

Local economies are still feeling the effects of America‚??s natural gas drilling boom.

This article originally appeared on watchdog.org.

There are no drilling rigs in Holland, Mich., but the local economy is still feeling the effects of America‚??s natural gas drilling boom.

The same is true in Newton, N.C., which is hundreds of miles from the rich natural gas deposits being tapped in North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

In those places and many others, the massive supply chain for the natural gas industry is breathing new life into all facets of the country‚??s manufacturing sector, thanks to demand for pipes, equipment and technology.

‚??From a natural gas supply chain perspective, outside of the oil patch, we‚??re a great example of a company benefiting from the development of natural resources,‚?Ě said Chris Wysong,president of Hemco Gage¬†Corp., who spoke with Watchdog.org last week as he surveyed the inside of a brand new 30,000-square-foot building that soon will house an expansion of Hemco‚??s sister company.

America‚??s natural gas and oil industries¬†now support more than 9.8 million jobs, according to a new report released last week¬†by the American Petroleum Institute, an industry group.

API says there are more than 30,000 companies benefitting in some way from the growth of the natural gas industry, many of them far removed from the actual process of extracting energy from the ground.

Those jobs include the obvious ones ‚?? rig workers who are fracking their way across the rugged wilderness of North Dakota ‚??¬†and plenty of less obvious ones, too.

Falling into the latter category are companies like Southern Glove, the Newton-based firm that makes work gloves and other protective clothing, and Hemco Gage Corp., a Holland-based manufacturer of precision gages.

In Holland, a small town of about 33,000 on the western edge of Michigan‚??s lower peninsula, Wysong estimates his business has doubled in size during¬†the past seven years and tripled its¬†revenue. He now has 70 employees working two shifts to manufacture so-called ‚??master gages,‚?Ě used by pipe manufacturers to ensure the threading on the ends of each piece of pipe will fit together.

The natural gas boom means lots of new pipelines, and each pipe has to be checked with a gage manufactured by precision gage-makers like Hemco.

And they are really, really precise ‚?? less than .0001 of an inch variance is allowed ‚??¬†because poorly threaded pipes can be a disaster in the making, Wysong said.

‚??It‚??s about physical safety, but it‚??s also environmental safety,‚?Ě he said. ‚??The whole point is to make it as precisely as possible because once that pipe goes into the ground, you don‚??t want to have to dig it up and replace it.‚?Ě

Wysong‚??s company is well-removed from the actual process of taking natural gas out of the ground. He‚??s making gages for companies that make other gages for companies that make pipes for companies that lay pipes to carry natural gas and oil.

Eric Milito, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, said the group wants to highlight the ‚??teamwork approach to energy.‚?Ě

‚??It‚??s not just an operator or a producer that is involved in safe and responsible development,‚?Ě said Milito. ‚??It‚??s a larger team of companies and individuals that is spread out across the country, linked together in a tight chain.‚?Ě

In North Carolina, Southern Glove has been making tough work gloves for 68 years, but the company has found a new market for its products by making the rounds at gas and oil tradeshows across the Midwest ‚?? after all, every driller needs to keep their hands safe and warm.

The workers at Southern Glove are just some of the 146,000 North Carolina jobs the API report claims are supported by the natural gas industry. Those jobs add an estimated $12.5 billion to the state‚??s economy, even though there is little natural gas drilling in the state.

There are plenty of other businesses across the country that could make similar claims, the API report claims.

‚??It could be engineers, rig workers, accountants, lawyers,‚?Ě Milito said. ‚?ĚThey‚??re all being supported by the oil and gas supply chain.‚?Ě

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