In its ongoing mission to build capacity for Black-owned businesses, the African American Chamber of Commerce’s Business Institute recently held a forum on the regional shale industry to give its members a better idea of where business opportunities are.
And according to the presenters at the chamber’s Jan. 31 Workforce & Business Development forum, those opportunities abound, and minority business inclusion is actively being courted.
Peter Speaks, who ran the PA General Services Department under former Gov. Ed Rendell and now serves as special counsel for state Senate Democratic Appropriations Committee Chair Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, began with a brief overview of Act 13, the legislation that imposed an impact fee on Marcellus Shale wells.
He noted the law has already resulted in more than $204 million being collected and redistributed back to the communities where drilling is taking place. Among its mandates are stricter environmental controls and legacy requirements for strengthening and rebuilding roads and bridges, and returning sites to their pre-drilling state.
All of these offer opportunities or engineering and ecological impact work before during and after the each well is built, and thanks to a part of the legislation Speaks, himself, wrote, Minority- Women- and Disabled- and Veteran-Owned Businesses Enterprises are mandated to take part.
“Even though this was led by Republicans, I was walking the halls in Harrisburg reminding them at every step that small and minority owned businesses must participate,” he said. “As a result, Section 23.16 states that the industry take ‘maximum practical steps’ to provide opportunities for M/WDBEs.”
Speaks then singled out Lance Hyde, supplier diversity manager for EQT, for his work and the company’s commitment to inclusion. Hyde said that commitment comes from the top, and he has to report every month on how he is increasing diversity at the production, midstream and distribution phases of natural gas development.
“There are distinct skills needed to drill a single well and we ask or subcontractors to make that same commitment. But it goes beyond that,” he said. “We held an event with Halliburton in August that generated $85,000 in sales for local businesses. Printing, temporary staffing, catering for the event were M/WDBE firms.”