In the Mon Valley, where I come from, some elected officials have taken to throwing around that “Rust Belt” moniker again. That strikes me as odd, because we are trying to shake off that rust.

Don’t get me wrong. Since the late 1970s, we have witnessed a mass exodus of manufacturing jobs. We were once known as a manufacturing hub, then our plants started to close and we were rightfully tagged as a Rust Belt.

We built things here, big, amazing things. We were known and respected for steel production and heavy manufacturing. These are hollow words to a young couple in the Valley, working two jobs and juggling a budget that may not have room for a vacation, let alone saving for educations. And putting a little away for a rainy day may not be easy.

Manufacturing is fueled by natural gas, and we have an abundance of it under our feet in the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations. Because of this, companies are investing in the local economy and creating jobs. Our region’s economic renaissance began when Range Resources drilled the first Marcellus well, Renz 1, in 2004.

The second phase of this energy renaissance, and our economic renaissance, includes expansion of American manufacturing. This phase capitalizes on our abundant geological gifts, and will create better-paying, family-sustaining jobs. This is great news for Mon Valley families trying to shake off that rust. This allows us to get back to our roots.

I am extending an open invitation to domestic and international manufacturing companies to visit Greene and Washington counties to see what we have to offer. We have abundant sites, industry-friendly supporting infrastructure, and a growing skilled workforce. Our region and opportunity for long-term growth give manufacturers a competitive edge.

Our future as a petrochemical hub is beginning to take shape with the construction of Shell Pennsylvania Chemicals’ $6 billion cracker plant in Beaver County, and the possibility of a second cracker being built in eastern Ohio and an underground storage hub for natural gas liquids. These and other projects are in various stages of discussion, fueling speculation that the region could become an epicenter of manufacturing again.

We know that natural gas impacts many goods and services. I have stated that, according to a recent economic analysis, natural gas end-users realized more than a trillion dollars in savings between 2008 and 2018. The end users include American households, businesses and manufacturers.

What does this mean for that Mon Valley family struggling to shake off rust? About $9,000 of savings. That’s a vacation or thousands invested in education.

We must understand that to attract investment to our region, we must invest in ourselves, our resources, our infrastructure and existing industries that are the foundations of a regional revitalization.

Since 2008, we have been responsible for 85 percent of the increase in U.S. natural gas production. Projections from the U.S. Department of Energy indicate natural gas liquid production in the region will increase more than 700% by 2023. We are competitive in a global market, and our region provides an attractive long-term, development opportunity.

So, manufacturers, visit Greene and Washington counties. You will love who and what you discover here.

Jamie Protin is founder and principal of The Protin Group in Belle Vernon.

To submit business-related columns, email Rick Shrum at rshrum@observer-reporter.com.

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