STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
The natural gas industry is rapidly expanding in a place that holds a significant place in the history of hydrocarbons. Pennsylvania is dotted with coal mines and it was once a leading source of oil. Now energy companies are returning to the state. Scott Detrow reports from member station WITF.
SCOTT DETROW: Four in 10 rooms in the hotel are filled by drillers right now, and vice president Jennifer Locey says that's created a squeeze.
JENNIFER LOCEY: Most corporate weeks, Monday through Thursday, if you don't book at least a few days in advance, you will not get a room.
DETROW: The benefits are trickling down to the restaurant industry too. A handful of Tex-Mex and BBQ joints have popped up in Williamsport, to accommodate the sudden influx of Western drillers who are eating out since they can't cook dinner in hotel and motel rooms.
G: Acme Barbeque, which opened up in April. Co-owner George Logue estimates between 30 and 50 percent of his business comes from drillers. Logue is happy to have them, but he concedes he feels some pressure from the Texans, who are always ready to weigh in on his brisket and pulled pork.
GEORGE LOGUE: These guys really know what I'm talking about, with the smoke and the slow-cooking and the different sauces and the rubs and the different woods you use.
DETROW: Political and business leaders are working hard to speed up training for locals who want to work on the rigs. Williamsport's Pennsylvania College of Technology has shifted its curriculum to focus on drilling-related skills, and vice president Bill Martin says it's becoming as hard to find a seat in heavy machinery classes as it is to book a room at the Holiday Inn.
BILL MARTIN: A seat in that particular program would be available to you sometime in the fall of 2011 if you get your application in in the next month or two. After that, it will be fall of 2012.
DETROW: Brady Russell is the eastern Pennsylvania director for environmental group Clean Water Action.
BRADY RUSSELL: As one water well builder in the area pointed out, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that when a bunch of folks have methane problems at the same time, and that time happens to be right after drilling began in the area, it was probably related to natural gas drilling.
DETROW: For NPR News, I'm Scott Detrow.
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