"You ever heard of Marcellus shale? I said no, she said google it!" That was one of Joe Auteri's first customers at Heritage Suites Executive Lodging in Bradford, back in 2008.
Now Marcellus shale is a household name and businesses like Heritage Suites have come to depend on hydraulic fracturing or hydrofracking of the shale. That's the controversial drilling procedure to remove natural gas from deep below the earth's surface.
"Without new development coming in from Marcellus shale, a lot of businesses would've gone under. I know ours, speaking for ours, for sure we would have," Auteri said.
McKean County Commissioner Al Pingie says that's because everyone from land surveyors to drillers are coming to Pennsylvania to tap into lucrative shale and they need services. "people in piping industry, small businesses dealing with clothing, rubber boots, safety equipment, safety clothing," he said.
"Our corporate and air taxi charter has increased significantly for that type of industry coming in here," said Tom Frungillo, director of the Bradford Regional Airport, where a new 30,000 square foot facility is now under construction.
The first tenant lined up? A long time oil company that's tapping into new opportunities with hydrofracking.
"The second beginning comes from Marcellus," said Fred Fesenmyer of Minard Run Oil Company. It dates back to 1875 and claims to be the oldest independent oil co. in the world. Fesenmyer has teamed up with a national company to hydrofrack Marcellus shale for natural gas.
In 2011 alone, the State of Pennsylvania says 1,751 Marcellus wells were drilled in PA.
But at what price? Here in New York, environmental groups and activists say there's too much is at risk, with potential water contamination and pollution. The DEC is reviewing thousands of public comments, as it considers high volume hydrofracking. A final decision is likely months away. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says it's better to be safe than sorry, "If we poisoned our water and had to clean it, we all know what cleanup costs are like, hundreds of millions of dollars."
Across the border in PA, other concerns range from road damage to traffic jams. But Pingie says activity in Bradford is moving at a steady pace, one that community can handle and is welcoming. "We've been in the oil and gas industry around here for 150 years, so this is nothing new to our area!" he said.