IMPERIAL, Pa. -Toronto, Ohio resident Rick Sparks figures he's living proof that the oil and gas industry wants to hire local.
Sparks was unhappily employed eight months ago when he stopped at the Jefferson County connections office on Fourth Street in Steubenville to find out how to go about getting a job in the oil and gas industry he'd been hearing and reading so much about.
Within minutes he was getting one-on-one assistance from Connections Director Mike McGlumphy, who steered him to websites geared to filling openings in the oil and gas industry.
With a commercial driver's license already in his back pocket, Sparks logged onto an industry site that tries to match job seekers with potential employers.
After inputting basic information, Drill Baby Drill delivered some leads - one of them a job in Indiana, Pa., where one of his buddies was working, which he'd seriously considered until the website "said they had another company in Pennsylvania looking for a Class A and Class B driver to haul water," he said.
That company turned out to be Equipment Transport LLC, a Carlisle, Pa., based company providing fluids transportation, heavy and oversized equipment transportation, waste transportation and disposal and equipment rentals.
"They called me in right away for an interview, said everything looked good," said Sparks, who'd worked for a company doing business inside Weirton Steel Corp. for 13 years, then spent another six years working for the mill itself. After that job was eliminated he took CDL classes and worked at an area distribution center for about six years, before being hired as a driver for a Pennsylvania company. Not long after he took that job he got the call from Equipment Transports. "I was really impressed with their friendliness, their professionalism and willingness to work with me."
Until June 1, Sparks worked out of Equipment Transport's Washington, Pa., operations center. Because of the long drive, he had a room in a hotel there, returning to Toronto on his off days.
"It saved me the commute," he said. "It was easier to stay in Washington during the week and go home when I was off."
Equipment Transport, however, recently opened another operations center, this one just off the Clinton-Imperial exit on Interstate 576, not far from Pittsburgh International Airport. The company, which also is opening locations in other communities, including Fairmont, W.Va., and Texas, has expanded its truck fleet as well as its work force - going from seven trucks and about 16 employees at the Washington location when Sparks joined the company six months ago to nearly 40 trucks in Washington and Clinton.
Equipment Transport supervisors Ray North and Jeff Kendall said business conditions forced them to open a second operations center in the two- county area.
"The gas business in this area is supposed to continue, even grow bigger," said North, Equipment Transport's operations manager. "We needed a facility, we needed to split our crews up to get full coverage."
Kendall said the company has "probably 18-20 local guys" among the roughly 33 assigned to the new Clinton-Imperial location, and plans to add 10 more.
"When we come into an area, our big thing is to hire local," Kendall said.
He said the gas boom has been a boon to the local economy.
"Guys are filling the motels, they're eating, the convenience stores are getting business, and we're buying diesel for our trucks," he said. "It's a lot of economic growth."
And Sparks, who'd been stuck on steady nightturn at his old job, said there's a lot to be said for watching the sun come up and hearing the birds in the morning.
"I love it, I just love it," he said. "This company has been very good to me so far. I couldn't be happier."