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Be a Dealer (of Hope)

  Winter 2017

Be a Dealer (of Hope)
By: Greg Kozera, Director of Marketing, Shale Crescent USA

I teach a class in Leadership and Soft Skills at Pierpont Community and Technical College in Fairmont,  West Virginia as an Adjunct Professor. It is one of the ways I try to give back to the industry that has given me and my family a nice living for over 40 years. I love working with young people.  They are so full of energy and hope. In August, I looked my students in the eye and said, “If you can graduate from here as planned and stay drug free, a $40- $50,000 per year job with benefits will be looking for you in the Oil and Gas or Petrochemical Industry.” Several of my students have already been hired by companies in the region. The world has changed. I could not have made this statement 10 years ago. All three of my children had to leave West Virginia for Maryland and Virginia to find these high wage jobs.

“Leaders are dealers in hope.” Says leadership expert John Maxwell. Mr. Maxwell also said, “If there is hope in the future there is power in the present.”  As an athletic coach, college instructor and business leader I know that Mr. Maxwell is right. When people have a dream that they believe incredible things can happen.

Way back in 1999 the high school boys’ soccer team where I am assistant coach had never won even a section championship. We usually won a few more games than we lost. That year we began teaching leadership to our seniors. At the beginning of the season I asked our seniors, “What is your dream for this season.” BJ our captain said, “Coach, we want to play for the State Championship.” This was totally unrealistic but BJ was able to convince me, Bruce (our head coach) the other seniors and then the Team that it was possible. Our Team began to train and practice at a higher level. The boys work ethic got stronger. They complained less. After an incredible season, against all odds, we played Morgantown High in Wheeling for the State Championship. Their hope in the future changed what they did in the present. It also changed the future for the boys that followed them, some of them were not even born in 1999. Thirteen State Tournaments, seven State Finals and five State championships later I can say that our players believe in the future. I have seen similar results in business, sales and safety. When people have hope and belief in a dream (the future) they are more likely to do the work and then the magic begins to happen.

We have a similar situation as we work to bring high wage jobs back to this region that we have branded as Shale Crescent USA. If you remember your history the “fertile crescent” in the Middle East was the cradle of civilization. If you use your imagination the Ohio River which is at the center of Marcellus and Utica production makes a crescent as it flows from Wheeling southwest between Ohio and West Virginia. The Marcellus and Utica have been a game changer for our region and the United States thanks to horizontal drilling, hydraulic fracturing and American ingenuity.

As our “rust belt” communities begin to regain hope in the future people change their actions. Young people like those in my class go back to school for a technical degree. They study with a purpose. They work with a purpose.  They have a reason to stay off drugs. Their attitude changes and that becomes contagious. That is not the case everywhere. In October, I met a CEO from a company in the Netherlands when we were at the Global Plastics Summit in Chicago who said, “Americans are so optimistic. You would never see that in my country.” Recently I met a student from France who was working at Walt Disney World in Florida. He wants to stay here. I asked, “What is the biggest difference between here and France?” He quickly responded, “Here you still believe in your future.” We have a similar situation in the coalfields of West Virginia. Many of the coal jobs are not coming back. Unless those folks leave their future looks bleak right now. How sad to live in a place that doesn’t have hope or optimism in the future. They also have a huge drug problem. My guess is that many people turn to drugs when they have no hope.

It is important for all of us to have hope in the future so that we will do the work to prepare for it in the present. This optimism may give many people the reason they need to stay off drugs. This optimism is also a reason for prospects to choose to come here to The Shale Crescent USA and bring their business. If you were going to spend millions or even billions of dollars to expand and grow your company, what type of community would you prefer to relocate to? We can all choose to be dealers of hope to those we come in contact with. Maybe you can help someone to avoid a drug problem or seek treatment because of the hope you have given them. Maybe you can encourage someone go back to school to prepare for one of these high wage jobs. These aren’t just jobs. They are careers. If you don’t have hope already, my desire for you in the coming year is for you to understand why we should all have hope in our future. You need to have hope so that you can help others develop their own hope.

The jobs we have been talking about are real. In the Parkersburg/ Marietta area companies like Solvay and Hino have already announced major expansions creating hundreds of jobs. They will need prepared and educated people to fill them. Other companies in the Shale Crescent Region I talk to are quietly expanding and hiring. One company is starting their planned new hires at $80,000 a year. Other companies outside of the USA have expressed their interest in locating in the Shale Crescent Region. Just this week one of our prospects from the Global Plastics Summit reached out to us. We have a conference call with them next week. We have been invited to Japan in January to present to the Japan Petrochemical Industry Association in Tokyo (JPCA). We will be telling the Shale Crescent story to a who’s who of Japanese companies encouraging them to come here.

I asked my students, “When you are making $50,000- $60,000 per year plus overtime after you graduate, how are you going to spend that money? My students don’t just have hope, they have a vision. Here are their top 3 dreams.
1. Buy a brand-new pickup truck. Not just any new pickup. They have a vision of their specific make, model, color, accessories, sound system and interior.
2. Buy a house. They are renting or living with family now and want independence.
3. Buy WVU season football tickets.

How this will help our local economy? Someone will sell them pickup trucks. Homes will be built or remodeled. They will buy groceries, big screen TVs and numerous household items locally. They will go movie theaters and eat at local restaurants. They will PAY TAXES. Soon they will need baby furniture, toys and clothes. They will need health care, financial planners and attorneys. You get the picture. It starts with hope.

I love seeing young people and adults who have hope and are excited about the future. Local businesses can be excited about this growth. One big advantage my community college students have is that after two years of school they will have a degree that gets them a job with little or no student debt. What this means for local businesses is that these students don’t have big student loan payments and will have more money to spend.

If you have doubts I challenge you to put them aside and have the courage to believe in a positive future. This is our time to thrive if we understand the potential we now have and seize the moment. It may be the best Christmas gift we can give our families. This isn’t a sprint it is a marathon. Even a marathon starts with a single step. Believe in your future.

Thoughts to ponder.

Greg Kozera is the Director of Marketing for Shale Crescent USA He has over 40 years of experience in the energy industry. Greg is a leadership expert with a Masters in Environmental Engineering and the author of four books and numerous published articles.

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