WYSOX TOWNSHIP - Everyone knows that in Bradford County, Marcellus Shale drilling has helped businesses and has increased traffic.

But just how much have businesses been helped, and how much has the traffic increased?

Timothy W. Kelsey, a professor of agricultural economics at Penn State University in State College, Pa., recently presented data to the Progress Authority that spells out some of the economic and traffic impacts the drilling has had on counties where the highest amount of drilling has taken place, including Bradford County.

Kelsey discussed the data at the Progress Authority's annual dinner, which was held Thursday at the Towanda Country Club in Wysox Township.

Kelsey is one of the people currently working on a study of the economic impacts of Marcellus Shale drilling, which was commissioned by the Progress Authority and which is funded by the Department of Community & Economic Development's Enterprise Zone program, according to the Progress Authority. The study, which is being conducted at the Pennsylvania College of Technology and Penn State University, is scheduled to be completed next month, Kelsey said.

Based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the total amount of wages and salaries paid out in Bradford County increased by 2.5 percent from 2007 to 2009, while there was a 1.5 percent drop in wages and salaries during that time in Pennsylvania counties where no Marcellus Shale drilling took place, he said.

Over those two years, other sectors of the economy benefited, too, either directly or indirectly from the drilling, he said.

For example, between 2007 and 2009, the total amount of wages and salaries paid out to construction workers increased by 10 percent in counties where 90 or more Marcellus wells were drilled, while the total compensation paid to workers in the construction industry statewide declined by 6 percent, he said.

Also, between 2007 and 2009, the total amount of wages and salaries paid out to people working in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector of the economy increased by 17 percent in counties where 90 or more Marcellus wells were drilled, while the total compensation for workers in that sector of the economy increased statewide by only 1 percent, he said.

In Bradford County, which has the highest amount of Marcellus Shale drilling activity in the state, collection of the state sales tax increased by 21 percent from July 2007 to June 2010, while the sales tax collection dropped 3.8 percent statewide over that time, he said.

Citing the most recent data available from the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, collection of the Pennsylvania Personal Income Tax increased by 13 percent from 2007 to 2008 in Bradford County, whereas the collection statewide rose only 2 percent during that time, he said.

As part of the economic impact study commissioned by the Progress Authority, a survey was sent to 1,000 businesses in Bradford County, including all tourism-related businesses, and 31 percent of the businesses responded to the survey, he said.

A total of 32 percent of the businesses that answered the survey said their annual sales had increased because of natural gas drilling, whereas only 3 percent said their annual sales had decreased, he said.

Thirteen percent of the businesses that answered the survey said it was either "somewhat more difficult" or "much more difficult" to find qualified employees because of the gas industry, he said.

Traffic

Kelsey also shared traffic data that had been compiled by the state Department of Transportation, which had studied the traffic volume at four locations in Bradford County: state Route 14 south of Troy, U.S. Route 6 east of Burlington, Route 6 west of Burlington, and Route 6 west of U.S. Route 220.

At those locations, the total traffic volume in 2010 was four to five times higher in 2010 than it was on average during a recent five-year period, he said.

Truck traffic at those locations was at least 10 times higher in 2010 that it was on average during the recent five year period, according to a copy of the data.

James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or e-mail: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com