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Survey: Customers in shale gas areas confident in economic future

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A new study out by the Huntington Bank finds that nearly 60 percent of consumers in shale gas exploration regions are confident the industry will provide opportunity in their area.

The Midwest Economic Index surveyed across Huntington Bank's service area – from West Virginia through Michigan. The new survey is the first of its kind conducted by Huntington.

"Huntington commissioned the survey by an independent research firm because we are committed to helping our customers understand the economy in our markets," said Steve Steinour, chairman, president and CEO of Huntington Bank. "While many inside and outside of the energy industry are predicting growth, we wanted to find out how the residents of our markets perceive the potential economic impact of the industry on their communities."

Of the 60 percent who thought it would provide an opportunity, 57 percent of those who responded to the survey said it was would provide "somewhat of an opportunity" or a "significant opportunity," with 14 percent responding the latter.  

The news wasn't all positive for the industry – about 43 percent of those in shale region, Huntington Bank's research suggested, said "they did not believe economic growth would be created by the new energy industry, in terms of shale workers increasing business in local areas, energy companies buying land or manufacturing growing to support the new industry."

West Virginians were particularly optimistic, with 75 percent of respondents believing the industry would provide opportunity. About 24 percent saw significant opportunity in the industry while 25 percent did not see economic impact.

In Ohio, only 58 percent thought the industry was bringing opportunity with it, while in Western Pennsylvania, 79 percent of respondents expected opportunities from shale gas development.

"Many of these industrial areas have been known as the Rust Belt," Steinour said. "With manufacturing growing again, and aggregate employment in these areas outpacing the national economic recovery, we prefer to call this swath of the country the Recovery Belt."

Huntington said it is anticipating Midwestern growth in the Utica, Marcellus and other natural gas production to "skyrocket over the next 25 years." As a result, the bank plans to expand commercial banking services for the sector.