Tuesday, December 28, 2010

So what do you want to do?

Finding myself unemployed for the second time in four years isn't exactly fun.  I did a lot of the grunt work of job searching back in the Spring and Summer of 2007 and I know the drill, and the issues.  A very good and generous friend who I met by way of The Comics Curmudgeon blog walked me through the steps of doing a somewhat more advanced job search.  One of the resources he had me tap was a book that listed all of the businesses in the state of Pennsylvania...alphabetically by location.  This is somewhat less useful than you might think.  Locations tend not to cluster alphabetically.  Likely locations for potential employers in this area, for example, are located in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Hazleton, and in dozens of smaller townships and municipalities in-between.  Olyphant borders Disckson City, and both are on the outskirts of Scranton, which is also near Clarks Summit and Avoca and Moosic, which are near Pittston, which is near Wyoming and Exeter and Plymouth and...and in a book of employers listed alphabetically by location, Nanticoke comes just before Nanty Glo,  and Wilkes-Barre is near Williamsport, and Pittston comes after Pittsburgh.  If there were some profit in it, I would sit down and recreate this guide grouping employers by county.  Maybe the local Chambers of Commerce have already done something like this.  Maybe.

(Apparently, this list was compiled back in 2006.  Which doesn't make it super super useful in 2011.)

During the bee-grinding process of flipping back and forth through this massive (and frequently wildly inaccurate) volume of Pennsylvania employers, I was able to determine that the majority of local industries fell into three categories:

1.  Plastics and associated manufacturing.
2.  Processed and frozen food production.
3.  Military materiel and related support.

This doesn't cover everything done in Northeastern Pennsylvania, but it did cover about 75% of what was in that book, which was probably current as of sometime in 2006.  With the exception of major errors, such as the way a random employee (and someone with whom I worked as a DVD molding operator these past three years) was listed as the primary contact for my then-former-and-future employer, or the way another division of the same company was listed as a whole other company.

None of which really thrills me.

New employers have come to the area since that time.  One major new industry has arisen in the last ten years:  warehousing.  Kind of an obvious fit in an area with cheap real estate (= cheap storage space), an inexpensive workforce, and easy access to major highways.   Call centers have also popped up, some flash-in-the-pan deals, some with more staying power.

I'm interested in an industry that doesn't exist - despite my best efforts to summon it into being.

I think the term you would use at this stage is "green energy infrastructure."  Not green energy per se, but rather the things that make green energy work.  Generating electricity from wind requires turbines, and those turbines have to be built somewhere.  Generating electricity from solar energy requires solar cells and solar panels, and those things need to be built somewhere.  Electric and hybrid cars are built around rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, and those batteries need to be built - you guessed it - somewhere.

The closest somewhere for wind turbines is apparently York, PA.  The somewheres for solar cells and solar panels include Delaware (a linear descendant of my old employer from twenty years ago, I think) and China.  The somewhere for lithium-ion batteries is out in the Midwest.  Nobody, as far as I can tell, made any real effort to bring any of this stuff here to Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Instead what we have is a boom in natural gas extraction.  Fracking of Marcellus Shale.  A process which will render groundwater poisoned, land scarred and unusable, and a lot of boom towns gone bust when the drillers have moved on.

And, ironically, the "coal country" parts of Northeastern PA, the parts which still bear the scars and the damage from 19th and 20th century coal mining, will not be a part of this.  The geological processes which cooked dead vegetation into coal apparently also cooked out a significant amount of the trapped natural gas.  So while we are spared the direct environmental damage of this new industry, we will also be denied any economic benefits associated with it, however short-term they may be.

Leaving me with...what?

Time to start the search all over again.

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