HUNTINGTON – Natural Resource Partners presented the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 12th Annual Energy & Natural Resource Symposium Monday , highlighting the connection between energy, healthcare and infrastructure.
The symposium was held from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at St. Mary’s Conference Center and had four panelists discuss the importance of energy and healthcare. A reception followed the symposium.
“Having been a participant in the past, this annual event gives attendees a better look at economic issues in our region, especially in regards to our state’s energy industries,” said Bill Bissett, President & CEO of the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce. “Growing up here, it is easy to think that we are far from the coalfields or natural gas wells in West Virginia, but our economic connection to these industries has a direct effect on livelihoods and other economic sectors here in our region.”
The moderator of the event was Kevin J. Craig, the Executive Vice President of Coal of GP Natural Resource Partners.
Craig said the focus of the symposium was connecting beyond the energy industry. He called the four panelists as “all-star” line up.
Bill Raney, the president of the West Virginia Coal Association, said even though it has been a tough eight years, he is looking forward to a change in the industry in the future.
“Usually when we have a downturn it’s due to economy,” he said. “The last eight years it has been because of the presidential administration. One man in the White House can make a huge difference, as we have seen these last eight years.”
Raney said the coal industry in West Virginia has lost 7,700 jobs in the last two years and that everything negative that has happened the last eight years has been due to the president’s administration.
“We think the world and the country’s economy will do better going forward,” he said. “We are the leading coal producing state and there really is no substitute for coal.”
Raney said West Virginia has a ready work force and that keeping West Virginians working as much as they possibly can is their goal.
“It’s been a struggle these last eight years,” Raney said. “We’ve been swimming upstream.”
Raney said Election Day was a good day for West Virginia and coal’s future.
Maribeth Anderson, the Director of Government and Community Relations for Southwestern Energy, said the changes in natural gas could bring about positive changes for Huntington.
“There is a lot of natural gas,” Anderson said. “What does this mean for Huntington? As an observer, there are two plays getting some attention, the Berea Sandstone play and the Rogersville Shale play.”
Anderson said she thinks there will be more activity in the Berea Sandstone play and Rogersville Shale play in the future, which would be great for the region.
Kevin Fowler, the president and CEO of Cabell Huntington Hospital, said energy and healthcare are very much related.
“Energy has a huge impact on our daily lives,” Fowler said. “There has been significant growth in healthcare in Huntington and we’ve been able to sustain stability in growth—all because of energy.”
Fowler said the area is smack dab in the middle of where energy is being produced and many patients are somehow connected to the energy field.
Col. Philip Secrist, the district commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said the USACE exists to project the region and the environment.
“We pioneer solutions with our partners and we ensure the water is navigable and reduce flood risk,” he said.
Secrist said his job is to carry out the district’s mission within the Ohio River, and nine major tributaries in five states.
Secrist said coal and petroleum products make up more than 50 percent of what is being shipped on the river.
Craig said a good job solves a lot of problems and that energy is the lifeblood of West Virginia’s economy.