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Member Spotlight: Amanda Finn, Ascent Resources-Utica, LLC

Posted By Lyndsey Kleven, Communications Manager, Monday, August 27, 2018

 Background Information

Amanda Finn grew up in Mason Ohio just north of Cincinnati where she lived until her final year of high school. Just before starting her senior year, her parents moved the family to Oklahoma. That year proved to be a challenging time in 17 year old Finn’s life, which she managed to survive after realizing she was not required to ride a horse or live in a teepee (original dramatic thought of a 17 year old). She then moved on to attend Lindenwood University just outside of St. Louis, Missouri and graduated with Bachelor of Arts degree in Marketing. Immediately after school she started working for a local marketing research firm in St. Louis focusing on internal marketing and social media. This was a good role for a recent college graduate, where she remained for three years developing marketing strategies for major Midwestern clients.

With her parents move to Marietta, Ohio, a visit home sparked a change in career path that she was looking for. Finn met a local Ohio congressman and, after shadowing his D.C. fundraiser staffer, she was offered a position to move back to Ohio and start working as his director of finance. This opened the door to the state’s energy industry as Finn was meeting numerous people directly involved in oil and gas.  

Work History

In her fundraising role, Finn met the CEO of Magnum Hunter Resources Corporation, who presented an opportunity for Finn to leave the fundraising side of politics and make the leap over to government relations and community affairs. Having built a network in oil and gas while doing congressional fundraising, Finn felt ready to make this career shift. For the next two years, Finn was the Government Relations Manager for Magnum Hunter. During this time, she also focused on community relations and public relations throughout Ohio and West Virginia. During the oil and gas industry’s bust of 2016, Magnum Hunter filed for bankruptcy, in turn causing staff turnover. Finn then went on to Ascent Resources – Utica, LLC (“Ascent”) where she currently works as their Government Relations Manager.

“I think it’s addicting,” Finn described. “I think most people’s jobs get old and they just go through the daily motions. This industry is always something different, it’s always exciting, every day is something new and you have no idea what’s going to happen when you walk in the door. I think part of the allure of the industry is the many ebb-and-flows that keeps you on your toes and produces some of the best work ethic I’ve ever seen.”

Finn’s role at Ascent involves a variety of focuses, but a key piece is government relations. The job, which includes working individually and with OOGA involves educating and working with members of the General Assembly on key pieces of legislation, rules and regulations through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and all aspects of community relations. This includes working with local township trustees, commissioners or mayors, along with land owner relations, mainly updating them on activities in the area and fielding any issues or complaints.  

“I think it’s challenging for some to understand or see the magnitude of the legislative process and why it is so important,” explained Finn. “These legislative initiatives and rules/regulations proposals are key to the industry continuing to operate at a safe and productive level in the future.”

Ascent Resources - Utica Overview

Ascent is headquartered in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma with about 240 employees based in that office; Finn works in the Cambridge field-office that has over 100 employees and is the largest office outside of the headquarters. In Ohio there is one other small office in St. Clairsville that focuses on Ascent’s dry gas operations. Finn described that Ascent hires primarily local contractors, with at least 80% of them coming from the tri-state region in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Ascent is operating strongly in four Ohio counties that include Belmont, Harrison, Guernsey and Jefferson, and its recent acquisition of natural gas assets from CNX, Hess and UMD will expand its acreage position in Monroe and Noble Counties. Across these counties they have seven rigs running and four frac crews. Being the largest gas producer in Ohio, Ascent has nine of the top ten gas wells in the state according to the latest production figures released for Q1 of 2018.

“Legislatively we’ve achieved a lot in 2018 with HB 225 and HB 430 being signed and will become law later this year,” Finn said. “The affected mine legislation, SB 236 will be a focus in the next legislative session along with other initiatives that will be finalized in the next few months. Rules and regulations have been more of a struggle, with ODNR doing an overhaul of the rules package as part of their five year review process. Part of resolving this is to try to get everyone on the same page and ensure that they are interpreting the rules in a way that won’t create added frustrations to the producers.”  

Why OOGA

Finn initially became a member of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association in 2013 while she was in her fundraising role. When she started working at Magnum Hunter, one of the first things she did was make sure the company became more involved with the Association. She also stepped up her personal level of participation by joining the Government Affairs Committee and the Environmental Committee, later becoming chair of the Government Affairs Committee in 2016.

Finn carried this same attitude over to Ascent when she started her new position. Ascent upped its membership to the highest corporate level in order to get a wider reach of its staff members involved with the OOGA. They now have at least one employee on each committee that OOGA has available. Finn continues to chair the Government Affairs Committee and has expanded her involvement to include a Board of Trustees seat in 2017 and was recently appointed to the Executive Committee in 2018. She remains involved in other committees to keep Ascent up to speed on what is happening in the industry, and sits on the Environmental Committee, Communications Committee, Technical Committee and other work groups when necessary. 

“If you take advantage of your membership, it’s of huge benefit,” said Finn about her involvement among the Association. “If you participate in committees, pay attention, read the news clips and get engaged, you get as much out of it as you put in. For Ascent, I would not be able to do everything else I do if I didn’t have the legislative assistance OOGA provides. Having OOGA be that support system of representing us on a daily basis is of huge importance to Ascent.”

 

The member spotlight series features OOGA members making an impact with their membership. If you would like to recommend someone to be highlighted, please contact Lyndsey Kleven lyndsey@ooga.org

Tags:  Amanda Finn  Lyndsey Kleven  member spotlight  ohio oil and gas association  oil and gas  shale  utica 

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Ohio’s Oil and Gas Industry Contributes More Than $343 Million in Direct Invest in Eight Counties

Posted By Lyndsey Kleven, Communications Manager, Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA) and Energy In Depth (EID) released findings in its Utica Shale Local Support Series that show Ohio oil and gas operators have invested more than $343 million in direct investment into counties where drilling and production of oil and natural gas from the state’s shale resources is occurring.  The findings include more than $300 million in road improvements with more than 630 miles of roads improved. In addition, $43.7 million in property tax payments, with a projected more than $200 million to be paid over the next decade.

“The series of reports continue to prove that the oil and gas industry is a partner to the communities that it operates in,” said Matt Hammond, OOGA’s executive vice president. “The industry is making significant contributions to the state and local economies in multiple ways, as can be seen directly by the millions of dollars paid in property taxes and road miles improved.  This revenue flows directly to local schools and creates local economic activity."       

The Utica Shale Local Support Series: Ohio’s Oil & Gas Industry Road Improvement Payments, report takes a closer look at the history of the Road Use Maintenance Agreement (RUMA) and the execution of these agreements within eight counties spanning from 2011 to 2017: Belmont, Carroll, Columbiana, Guernsey, Jefferson, Harrison, Monroe and Noble. The key finding includes more than $300 million total investment, more than 630 road miles improved, 100 percent invested directly into local communities.

The Utica Shale Local Support Series: Ohio Oil and Gas Industry Property Tax Payments, report looks at the industry’s contributions of $43.7 million to six Ohio counties from 2010 to 2015: Belmont, Carroll, Guernsey, Harrison, Monroe and Noble. The report projects that over the next decade, $200-$250 million will be paid to these six counties alone. The percentage of property tax collections to local Ohio schools in these areas is 60-70 percent.

The Utica Shale Local Support Series is an on-going series of studies between OOGA and EID that collectively examine multiple ways in which oil and natural gas production directly benefits local schools, counties, townships, cities, villages and other vital local services and infrastructure. The information obtained for the studies was gathered through public record requests. 

Tags:  ad valorem  Lyndsey Kleven  ohio oil and gas association  oil and gas  RUMA  Utica shale 

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Ohio Oil and Gas Legend Leaving a Legacy In Muskingum County

Posted By Lyndsey Kleven, Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Updated: Friday, February 23, 2018

Humble Beginnings

Muskingum County will always be a special place to J.W. “Bill” Straker. He has lived in Zanesville since 1925 and the area has afforded Straker a very good living, which he is generously sharing back with the community.

Straker grew up in Zanesville where his father owned and operated a local oilfield supply business called Zanesville Tool Company, later changed to Buckeye Supply. Straker earned a degree in petroleum engineering at Ohio State University in 1943. His real interest was not in the retail supply business, so in the early 1940s during his college years, Straker approached a local oil production company called National Gas and Oil for a summer job. When National said they were not hiring, Straker then offered to work for free just for the experience. The next summer he went back and National paid him fifty cents an hour.  

Buckeye Supply was a stable business and introduced Straker to the oilfield and his father’s business approach. In 1946 Straker founded the Oxford Oil Company. In its early years Oxford found success buying wells, salvaging equipment and finding oil in the clean out of old wells which allowed the company the ability to start drilling its own wells. Straker was meticulous in his operations, forward-thinking, frugal and Oxford’s books were balanced to the penny.  

A longtime Oxford employee says there was probably nobody in the state that was more forthcoming about paying its bills than Oxford. The drillers could come in the day they finished a well and get their check. That meant a lot to the people working with Oxford and others in the industry.

Reserved in nature about his business plans and sharing any operating techniques, those close to Straker describe him as the dictionary definition of work ethic. Often sacrificing family time for the business, Straker would do whatever it took to provide for his family. He and his wife Mary Helen had four children and from a young age he instilled in them the value of hard work. It was his way of life to empower others to want to improve themselves and make it on their own. His only son John took over Oxford with that same work ethic years later. Straker served as president and general manager of Oxford until he retired in 1986.

In addition to operating Oxford, Straker remained involved with National Gas and Oil. After getting his first taste of the industry there, National and Oxford did business together regularly. When National’s president retired Straker became the president and CEO in 1973, and was elected chairman of the board in 1978, serving in that capacity until he retired in 1991.

Through decades of successful drilling operations, ultimately becoming a top driller in the state, Straker became financially successful. Straker was a man of true integrity and unwaveringly devoted to his business operations; yet he kept his accomplishments to himself.

Mighty Oaks Warrior Project

Straker has never sought fame or recognition in his business dealings, and the same is true for his charitable giving. He simply feels it is most important that the benefits of his giving go back to the community where he was able to build his success. But after celebrating his 96th birthday he is now wrapping up his largest single contribution, a gift to intended to help veterans affected by war.

In 1943 Straker had finished his petroleum engineering degree at Ohio State through an accelerated program, immediately following he entered the U.S. Army Corps as a commissioned officer in the occupation of Japan after World War II. Though he is a veteran, the guiding reason he choose a project to support veterans was the need he saw and his desire to want to help do something about it.

Over three years ago Straker discovered the California based Mighty Oaks Warrior Program when reading an article in Forbes magazine. The group’s mission is to help active duty military and veterans facing posttraumatic stress disorder. The program serves as a means of bringing together people who face similar issues and helps them focus on recovery and identifying their purpose moving forward. The program thrives on an experience-to-experience model where graduates of the program become group instructors, rooted in faith and providing an open forum not found in clinical environments. 

After sending his daughter Susan to visit the original site in California, it became clear to Straker that the Midwest was lacking this type of program and he has since focused his efforts on creating a facility capable of hosting the program in Ohio. He came up with the idea to build a site at The Wilds, a private non-profit safari park and conservation center just outside his hometown in Cumberland, Ohio. Straker has been a supporter of the Wilds from its inception and saw natural potential at this site. 

To implement the Mighty Oaks program at The Wilds, Straker is personally funding the construction of seven cabins, along with a community style lodge that will hold class and meeting rooms, a kitchen and laundry facility. The site is located on a beautiful lake, within a few minutes access to fishing, horse back riding and animal safaris, all within a purposefully isolated setting that has very limited Internet access. The combination of these factors are an advantage to the program that host groups for up to a week, the easy access to activities are key to helping attendees quickly establish rapport. The Wilds is also directly benefitting by allowing this program, with rights to rent out the site for public use when it is not occupied by Mighty Oaks.  

In September of 2017 the program held a trial run for the program on The Wild’s property while the cabins were under construction. Construction of the project was completed in December 2017. The first official group of attendees is expected in the spring of 2018.

Giving Back

In the late 1980s the notion of starting a foundation was something that Straker began considering. In 1994 the J.W. and M.H. Straker Charitable Foundation quietly became a reality. Straker and his wife created the foundation and their daughter Susan Holdren was chosen to direct it. Since then the Foundation has given numerous charitable grants to fund capital projects throughout Muskingum County in excess of two million dollars to date; with most of these the contributor has remained anonymous to the public. Straker’s ultimate view is that he made his money in Muskingum County and the area has afforded him a very good living, he feels strongly that the benefits of that money should stay in the community. 

The Straker family is encouraged to sit on the board of the charitable foundation, which all of the children do and his grandchild are also welcomed with the stipulation that they must be college graduates or over the age of 25. It has been extremely important to Straker to start the foundation and his children have encouraged it in order to help guide them in where they want their funds to be distributed. Straker’s view of his legacy is replicable to that of the Warren Buffet mantra of giving your child enough to live, but not so much that they do nothing.

In running the foundation, Holdren said there have been some surprises along the way on what her parents want to put their money into. The projects lean towards being mostly brick and mortar, with primary focus areas in education, the arts and children. There are always more projects than there is money and they have set guidelines for choosing projects. Requirements of accepting a grant from the foundation considers the narrative of what to accomplish, how it will be evaluated and reported on the following year.

The project with Mighty Oaks strays a bit from the foundation’s typical focus areas of giving, and is one that Straker has personally led. The foundation has participated in the project, but the majority of the funding has come solely from Straker himself. It is something that is dear to him and he is willing to openly talk about. This fact alone has allowed for some added publicity, in hopes of reaching more veterans. His family is proud of the legacy he is leaving personally as well as professionally and leaving a mark unlike many people are able to do; all in thanks to hard work in the oil and gas industry and smart judgment.   

Tags:  Bill Straker  drilling  Lyndsey Kleve  Lyndsey Kleven  Mighty Oaks Warrior program  ohio oil and gas association  oil and gas  The Wilds 

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