In a small office, surrounded by photos and memorabilia of General William Custer, sits the County Auditor of Carroll County Ohio. Mr. Leroy VanHorne was born in the same town as Custer and has made a life-long hobby out of studying the life and times of the storied General. But amid discussions about the Kansas farm Custer once owned, VanHorne also discusses the most important news of the day: the impact of Utica Shale development on the Appalachian county he serves.
Carroll County OH, a sleepy rural district in the far eastern half of the state, boasts a population of 28,782, a number that hasn’t changed since the census in 2000. After years of economic stagnation and a decline of the county’s chief industry, agriculture, its residents are seeing some of the most rapid growth in personal incomes, tax revenues, businesses and traffic the county has ever seen.
Carroll County sits directly atop the Utica Shale formation and boasts the highest number of permitted gas wells in the state of Ohio. Much like south Texas, North Dakota and its Keystone State neighbors to the east, Carroll County is riding the wave of new shale oil and natural gas development that is changing the economic landscape of America.
From his desk in the county seat of Carrollton (pop. 3200) Mr. VanHorne says as early as 2010 he was working with the county commissioners to figure out how to make ends meet. But he then ticks off the improvements in the County’s budget since the shale boom began almost 2 years ago.
“Last year due to the tremendous sale of mineral rights, because a lot of people are actually selling, the money started coming in,” he said.
VanHorne says the county has a total budget at $6.5 million and he anticipates supplying the commissioners with a budget proposal of $7.3 million in the next fiscal year.
“It’s a great feeling to be able to tell the commissioners when they ask to find the money for a project, that ‘yes’ we can fund that request.
VanHorne says he expects the next few years to keep getting better. Carroll County and the Utica Shale formation in general is newer to gas development than the neighboring Marcellus formation in Pennsylvania. With energy companies like Chesapeake and REX Energy focusing on building the area’s pipeline infrastructure as well as drilling wells, the county has another year or two to go before it sees the peak of energy development and the benefits it will bring.