Chesapeake forging ahead despite job cuts

    LOUISVILLE —

    Chesapeake Energy’s new regional field office continues to take shape on the city’s south side.

    Workers this week were busy on the five-story building’s skin of windows and metallic panels.

    When the complex is finished, however, it won’t hold one of the departments originally planned.

    Last month, Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake cut its local corporate development and community relations staff of eight or so employees, apparently as part of a wider corporate restructuring under new CEO Doug Lawler that has included the departure of executives and other employees.

    This week, there were reports from Oklahoma of Chesapeake’s showing even more employees the door.

    In an email, a Chesapeake spokeswoman said the company had no comment on what the recent moves mean for its operations in eastern Ohio and its relationships with local businesses and the community. Nor would she comment on a completion date for the regional office.

    So far, it doesn’t seem the company is poised to abandon its Utica Shale operation. Chesapeake still has more than half of the 884 Utica Shale well permits issued by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The company is operating nine rigs in the Utica, starting a new well every 18 days.

    But by firing the corporate development and community relations staff, the company has cut the employees who were its public face at local community forums, chamber of commerce meetings and other events.

    “I don’t know how to make connections like I did before,” said Amy Rutledge, director of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce.

    More well permits have been issued in that county than in any other part of the state, and it sits at the core of Chesapeake’s holdings.

    The people of Carroll County liked having someone they could easily talk to, and Chesapeake’s decision to cut those contacts wasn’t good for its relationship with residents, Rutledge said.

    When a local company wants to do business with Chesapeake, Rutledge said, she doesn’t have a contact close at hand.

    “I’m still feeling that out at this moment,” she said.

    Chesapeake’s operations are concentrated in Carroll, but its corporate footprint is in Stark County, particularly downtown Canton and, soon, Louisville.

    “I don’t get any impression that anything is getting scaled back,” said David Kaminski, director of energy and public affairs for the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce.

    Although the corporate development staff is gone, Kaminski said, he still directs local businesses interested in working with Chesapeake to the askchesapeake.com website, which has always been the starting place for prospective vendors.

    And the Chesapeake operations staff, the employees who decided with whom to do business, are still around. “None of that has changed,” Kaminski said.

    Chesapeake built ties with local charities and community programs when it came to Ohio. In Carroll County, the company paid $200,000 to digitize records for the genealogical society, sponsored Habitat for Humanity houses and partnered with a program to improve mental-health, adoption and foster-care services.

    Last week, Chesapeake sponsored the first United Way Day of Caring in Carroll County, providing 65 of the 210 volunteers and underwriting the cost of feeding them.

    “They have been a strong supporter of United Way and this community,” said Maria Heege, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Stark County, which includes part of Carroll.

    The Day of Caring sponsorship was set up prior to the local staff changes, but United Way still has a local Chesapeake contact and expects the relationship to continue, she said.

    “We expect business as usual working with Chesapeake,” Heege said.

    Source: Canton Repository

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