By Shawn Bennett, Energy In Depth Ohio reached a key milestone regarding Utica shale development this week. Per the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Utica shale permit page, the state has approved over 1,000 Utica shale permits since 2010. The activity in Ohio is only growing as we continue to see new counties being explored and new companies seeking permits to develop the Utica. Since 2010, companies have come to Ohio and invested an unprecedented amount of capital into eastern Ohio’s struggling economy. New natural gas processing facilities are being built and companies supplying Utica shale operators are now making Ohio their home. In fact, a recent report from Columbus-based law firm Bricker and Eckler found over US $12.2 billion has been invested in Ohio thanks to Utica shale development. This investment and rapid pace of permitting is making the Utica Sshale in Ohio one of the fastest growing shale plays in America. During Hart Energy’s recent DUG East conference in Pittsburgh, Chris Simon, managing director of asset acquisitions and divestitures at Raymond James Financial Inc., remarked the Utica’s pace of development meets or surpasses the rate of exploration and production in some of the major shale plays across the country. During these first three years of Utica shale activity, companies have been able to determine the sweet spots for development. Currently, companies are focusing their efforts primarily in seven counties. •Carroll County: 352 permits •Harrison County: 154 permits •Columbiana County: 94 permits •Noble County: 74 permits •Guernsey County: 65 permits •Belmont County: 59 permits •Monroe County: 55 permits While the core of activity remains in these seven counties, new counties continue to be explored and tested. In the northern portion of the Utica, Mahoning and Trumbull counties are both seeing encouraging results. In the southern portion of the Utica, Washington County has also seen some impressive results from test wells by PDC Energy. PDC was so encouraged by its Washington county wells that in November the company permitted a well in the adjacent Morgan county, the first Utica Shale permit for that county. All of this activity has been a true blessing for Ohio’s economic outlook. In a recent report, the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services found that core-related shale jobs in the Utica shale have grown by 30% from January 2011 to January 2013. These well-paying jobs are providing wages that are 68% higher than Ohio’s average wage of $44,367. This is a significant increase for those in eastern Ohio where our average wage is usually much lower than the state average. Though the issuance of these 1,000+ permits, operators in Ohio have determined the sweet spots for development and placed significant amount of investment into our state. While there is still a good amount of research to done on the Utica, we are continuing to see very positive results. As we move into 2014, these investments and permits will only continue to grow, providing Ohioans with high paying jobs and economic activity that has long remained stagnant in eastern Ohio. This article originally appeared on Energy In Depth’s website.