The population of Carroll County has not changed in 10 years. The 2010 census looks exactly the same as it did in 2000: 28,836.
''It's been what they call a bedroom community,'' Carroll County Commissioner Thomas Wheaton said. ''First of all, the No. 1 industry is agriculture. The No. 1 business in agriculture was dairy, but now that's second to Christmas tree growing; pine trees, mostly pine trees for either Christmas trees or landscaping.''
Wheaton and two other commissioners share the second floor of the county courthouse, which is on the northeast corner of a one-block village square in the county seat, Carrollton.
Interview with Carroll County officials about the boom
The village of just more than 3,000 people sits in the heart of the county, surrounded on all sides by farmland or forest.
But, on a cold, mid-January day, mannequins adorning the yard around a gazebo still decorated for Christmas stand in silent observation of the traffic on East Main Street. It's thicker and denser now than it was last year.
Texas and Oklahoma license plates are becoming a common sight in this eastern Ohio town, as are 18-wheel tractor-trailers carrying drilling pipe and even entire drilling rigs.
Special to the Tribune Chronicle
What it’s all about: A worker holds a sample from the Marcellus shale formation taken from 7,100 feet down.
Just outside the village limits, four Utica Shale wells have been drilled and are already producing or about to begin production.
Gas and water tankers have hauled their wares to and from the sites and, more particularly, through the town.
''You can sit for quite some time now, just in an attempt to get out of a parking lot from a business,'' said Carrollton Mayor Frank Leghart. ''Whether it's the actual workers, whether it's the trucks that are driving supplies to and from the well sites, whether it's a well rig being moved and transported through the village ... that's been the greatest challenge to our village right now, that we're having to deal with traffic that we never had before.''
An in-depth look at the shale boom's economic impact in nearby counties; Part 1 in a three part series
The story is the same no matter who you ask: traffic.
''The traffic has been horrendous around here,'' said 65-year-old Dotty Escott.
She owns Dotty's Craft Center, the local craft-and-consignment-shop / lottery post / tour-bus depot, across the square and down from the courthouse.
And it's set to get worse when Rosebud Mining, which has an office on the square across from Dotty's, opens a planned mine in nearby Union Township.
Relations between Rosebud and the county and village residents have been less than cordial. The relationship with Chesapeake Energy, though, is different.
''They are the nicest people you ever wanna meet,'' Escott said. ''They are so nice.''
County Sheriff Dale Williams agrees.
''From what I've seen they're very, very good companies and very, very good people.''
Williams said that while he has seen a slight increase in thefts, domestic incidents, DUIs and public intoxication, some of those trends were already on the rise, and he could not pinpoint how much stems from newcomers.
Police Chief Ron Yeager noted that since the boom began, he's arrested only two shale workers, both on alcohol-related charges.
Almost nobody in Carrollton could be found to complain about Chesapeake or its employees during a recent two-day stay in the area. They just kept mentioning the traffic.
And with that traffic comes another concern - roads and infrastructure.
''Well, the roads have always been a major concern, and they've taken control of that by being proactive,'' said Chamber of Commerce Director Amy Rutledge. Rutledge said Chesapeake has either fixed roads prior to use or repaired any damage inflicted by transporting the heavy machinery.
''And that's the part that I think is probably reassuring to everybody. You're gonna put up with some inconvenience as you're going through drilling, on the roads because of the traffic, but when it's all said and done, we could end up with a lot of brand new roads. And that will be good because the county couldn't afford to get them fixed.''
County Engineer David Miskimen could not be more impressed.
''I could not afford on our current budget to do what they're doing, and it's to their benefit as well, so it's working out for both of us,'' he said.
The shale boom has brought more than road repairs to the area, it also has brought jobs.
Locals are quick to point out that the economy has rebounded since Carrollton folks first began uttering the words ''Utica Shale'' over candy-bar and scratch-off Lotto ticket purchases at Dotty's.
Wheaton said during the 2008-09 recession, Carroll's unemployment rate hit roughly 15 percent.
The Timken Co. in Canton was one of the largest employers in the region. In 2008, the company laid off 7,000 workers worldwide as the demand from its oil and gas clientele dropped heavily. Many Carroll residents earned a living there.
Now, the company has a new mission that has brought new income for county workers.
''People who worked at Timken are back to work because they make the pipe for drilling as well as your Warren steel plant,'' Wheaton said. ''They're bringing back three (hundred) to 400 people, but they're working around the clock right now making drilling pipe.''
Wheaton said he figures the depth and length of a vertical, then horizontal drill measures about three miles of pipe per well.
''I mean that's a lot of pipe, so that's what's helped the economy,'' he said.
In the Mahoning Valley, pipemaker Vallourec subsidiary VAM USA announced in November the company would be opening a pipe-finishing plant alongside the expanded V&M Star operations on the Youngstown / Girard border. Like Timken, VAM will provide threading for drilling pipe used in the natural gas industry.
In Carroll, the number of those wells could be huge. Depending on whom you ask, the number varies. Wheaton said he was told 20 gas wells will be in operation by year's end. Miskimen heard as many as 30 by the end of April. Both said Chesapeake plans to have 200 gas wells producing over the life of the project, which may run as long as 15 years.
Wheaton said local contractors have been employed to help haul water, sand and gravel to well sites. Restaurants are bustling, and Ponderosa owner Jim Buxton said his staffing is up 10 percent this year.
Wheaton, Leghart and other officials agree, the benefit so far has been worth the traffic and looks like it will continue to be so. That's not to say they believe the challenges ahead will be easily met.
''The greatest thing that we're seeing is that they're housing here,'' Leghart said. ''The workers are housing, the workers are accessing our businesses, whether it's the grocery store, the restaurants. ... Obviously this industry is going to bring with it new revenues and those new revenues spurring new business, whether that be restaurants, hotels, retail outlets, whatever.''
Among those asked, only one person seemed to disagree.
''They're taking their money elsewhere and doing their shopping,'' said John Dendak, owner of Custom Creations Jewelry. ''The people that are working here, they're not even staying here. They're not shopping here, they're going elsewhere. It was the worst Christmas I ever had.''
Dendak said after bills, he clears $500 per month.
But other businesses questioned said they'd either seen an increase or were at least on par.
''We've definitely been busier since they've been here,'' Escott said.
For Carroll County officials, the answer to other communities looking at a potential future shale boom - like Trumbull and Mahoning counties - is simple: education and information.
''Well, if they just have the same level of communication that we had initially, they'll be fine,'' Carrollton Village Administrator Denny Roudebush said.
As for landowners, Wheaton said he believes if some had known then what they know now, they would have waited before signing a lease. Some in Carroll County earned only $50 an acre in signing bonuses, while others are pulling down more than $5,000 an acre lately.
''Some of those people aren't real happy. But yet, I don't think anybody anticipated this kind of thing happening like this because so many people signed the older leases. It's not that they're dumb, they just didn't know it was coming,'' he said.
Wheaton and other Carroll County officials say local landowners have begun to form leasing groups to negotiate better agreements and encourage others in other counties to do the same.
Jim Ladlee is the director of special initiatives for the Marcellus Shale Education and Training Center at Penn State University. Education is what Ladlee does and what he encourages.
''I think more people (need to) have more up-front education. The more people know about this, the more mystery you take out of the process, the better off everyone is,'' he said. ''I think there's no reason to have big secrets out there about any of this process. It's an industrial process. Get the information out there; let as many people know about it as possible, the good, the bad and the ugly.''
For now, Carroll County and its biggest municipality are just biding their time.
''We really don't know what the full influx of this is gonna be,'' Leghart said. ''It's in its infancy stage, so this is kind of a learn-as-you-go process for us.
''It's totally new to the area, and we're the first in line,'' Leghart said.