Garland L. Thompson, Esq.
Journalist and Author, Philadelphia
[Editor’s Note: Garland Thompson and his associate John Linder lay out an extremely compelling case for the Philadelphia economy if only it will have it.]
On the eve of a new presidential administration, my colleagues and I on the downstream end of the business decided to send out messages that might make sense to government and community leaders in the Lower Delaware Valley who haven’t heard a fair description of the bigger picture this industry represents. We’ve sent the following missive to Barry Seymour, Executive Director of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, which oversees development projects all over the region.
We are writing to illuminate our urgent concerns about economic development in the Greater Philadelphia region, as we begin a new year at the inception of a new federal administration.
We’d also like to meet with you, to discuss what our organization can do to help the Philadelphia Delaware Riverside communities move to maximize the economic opportunities dawning as this region begins to take full advantage of its finest product, human capital, as the 21st Century matures. Philadelphia today, as in yesteryear, is a major manufacturing center, but to build its manufacturing expertise up to a new level will require critical changes in how the Delaware Valley develops programs to produce a new skilled workforce to support the new future.
That cannot be accomplished without fuller employment of the talents and potential of the region’s minority population, a community segment too often ignored by business planners.
Thus, our not-for-profit organization, Riverside Futures Regional Community Development Corp., was launched to promote economic development that opens benefits to all the region’s citizens — especially citizens of this region’s under-served minority communities — through consistent support of:
- Education and Job-Training programs that equip residents of under-served, minority-dominated communities for rewarding careers in the technology-dependent economy of the 21st Century;
- Promotion of broader public awareness of the realistic possibilities of economic growth from a better understanding of the extant strength of the Philadelphia region as a major center of chemical manufacturing,1 with new pathways to future economic prosperity now opened up through exploitation of Pennsylvania’s Marcellus and Utica Shale fields;2
- Promotion of a better understanding of the growth potential of the Ports of Philadelphia arising from a pragmatic analysis of the changes Pennsylvania’s Marcellus and Utica Shale wealth have produced in the energy economies and growth outlook in countries far from America’s shores.3
- Helping to develop a new understanding that the economic growth observed in the 37 Pennsylvania counties where shale drilling and production actually are happening represents only one aspect of the economic progress available. As the renowned energy analyst Daniel Yergin observed in his seminal work “The Prize,” the true value of energy reserves emerges when they are shipped to market.
- Although analyses like Yergin’s “The Prize” and his later “The Quest for Energy Independence” focus mainly on the oil industry and the discovery and production of natural-gas resources and the petrochemical feedstocks found in America’s new shale-gas riches, one purpose of Riverside Futures CDC’s activity is to make it clear to the Delaware Valley’s residents that the “Downstream” industries processing and utilizing feedstocks produced from those resources – so many of which already are operating here in the Delaware Valley – hold as much promise for economic growth and prosperity for Philadelphians and other area residents as the drilling and production industries hold for residents of the shale-producing areas.
- That’s equally true for the “Midstream” industries moving shale gas and oil out to world markets, about which more will be said earlier.
- Finally, Riverside Futures is established to support promotion of a broader public awareness of, and public recognition as well, of the wealth of un-tapped talent extant in the Delaware Valley’s minority communities, reservoirs of too-long under-appreciated young job and career aspirants, the industrial workforce as well as the tax-paying wage-earners who will build Greater Philadelphia’s economic future, in energy, manufacturing, transportation and all the other industries powering the Delaware Valley’s economy
- Thus, although it has been reported many times recently that the United States is in the middle of a dramatic demographic shift, with African-American and Hispanic-origin residents producing accelerating numbers of new births while America’s white population, fueled by European immigration as much as by birth-rate growth, has continued to decline, the public perspective on this shift is wrongly focused. That shift, decried in some circles only as the decline of white Americans’ longstanding political, cultural, and economic domination by majority rule, should also be seen in a more positive light:
- It really portends the opening of an era in which the “all Men” in Thomas Jefferson’s famous preamble to the U.S. Constitution, who have the “inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” will at last — after a Civil War, a century of segregation, second-class citizenship and a world-shaking campaign for civil rights — be seen, treated and truly respected as equals in this home of the brave and land of the free.
- Research by IHS-Markit for the Team Pennsylvania Foundation shows that Greater Philadelphia holds the nation’s second-largest concentration of plastics makers, producing the products on which our modern lifestyle depends. Southeast Pennsylvania’s makers of plastics, synthetic fabrics, and agricultural chemicals represent 21 percent of the U.S. industrial demand for ethylene, the product of “crackers” such as Shell Chemical is constructing at Monaca, Beaver County. See the IHS-Markit analysts’ report on the “Potential for Petrochemical Industry Growth in Pennsylvania” at www.teampa.com for details. Today, ethylene and other petrochemical feedstock for Philadelphia-area chemical manufacturers and pharmaceutical makers reaches the Delaware Valley by rail, delivered from ethane “steam-crackers” and propane “de-hydrogenators” on the Texas Gulf Coast, but it should be noted that Shell Chemical’s developing “cracker” plant, hundreds of miles closer on the Ohio River’s bank, will soon be able to compete for that business.
- The Tri-State ShaleCrescentUSA organization, founded to operationalize the regional energy-industry support cooperation agreement Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed with the governors of West Virginia and Ohio, reports that the Philadelphia area also holds more than 11 percent of the industrial demand for propylene, made from “de-hydrogenators” processing shale propane, useful in making hospital PPE products, Tyvek™ building insulation and a host of heavier plastic products used in auto-making, household furniture, hand-tools and other consumer products, also shipped by rail from the Gulf Coast. Look at www.ShaleCrescentUSA.org for more information.
- To be sure, it also must be noted that in the U.S. Department of Energy’s September 2020 report on a potential “Appalachian Petrochemical Industry Renaissance” in the Shale Crescent states, a chart of pipelines hauling natural-gas liquids from the “rich gas” fields of Southwest Pennsylvania, the West Virginia Panhandle, and Southeast Ohio, shows one – probably Mariner East — terminating where the government projects construction of a future “de-hydrogenator” at Energy Transfer Partners’ Marcus Hook Industrial Center on the Delaware River. That location will able propylene and other polyolefin products made by such a plant to compete by ocean transport in world petrochemical feedstock markets as well as for Philadelphia’s own chemical-industry custom.
PART II Tomorrow!
Garland L. Thompson, Esq. is a Contributing Editor at US Black Engineer & Information Technology.
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