Energy company Baker Hughes may break ground on its Utica shale gas operations hub in Massillon before the year ends, the city’s mayor says.

Baker Hughes Oilfield Services closed this month on a multi-million-dollar purchase of 108.8 acres at the Northeast Ohio Commerce Park.

The Houston-based energy industry giant, with $19.8 billion in sales last year, confirmed it closed on the land on Aug. 14. The company declined to comment further. The price tag is estimated at $3.3 million for the site at 3400 Millennium Drive.

Massillon Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry said Baker Hughes may break ground before the end of the year. “We’re kind of waiting to see how the [natural gas price] rebounds,” she said Monday.

Historically low natural gas prices, caused by an abundance of shale-derived gas, have prompted energy companies to slow drilling and delay related projects.

Baker Hughes’ closing on the Massillon site is good news for the city and surrounding area, Catazaro-Perry said.

“We’re just very happy Baker Hughes chose Massillon,” she said. “There will be more jobs, decent paying jobs. We’ll be the regional site for Baker Hughes.”

The Baker Hughes project was initially billed as a $64 million facility that would provide as many as 700 high-paying jobs. The company is receiving state tax credits for the project.

But the Massillon Independent newspaper has reported that the low price of natural gas has meant the timetable may be scaled back and the facility will be built in stages.

The Baker Hughes site would serve oil companies and their drilling operations in the Ohio Utica shale, according to Akron commercial real-estate firm NAI Cummins, which assisted Baker Hughes in the Massillon project.

Bob Raskow, NAI Cummins vice president and business manager, said the search started about a year ago.

Baker Hughes was looking for property in the Interstate 77 corridor, Raskow said. The company liked the Massillon site in part because of its proximity to I-77 and state Route 21 and because there is a rail line on the southern portion of the property, he said.

“We looked at probably half a dozen sites,” Raskow said.

“They [Baker Hughes] were very clear on what kind of impact they will have on the Massillon community,” Raskow said. The jobs and higher-than-average wages will have a long-term impact on the city and surrounding areas, he said.

Raskow and Catazaro-Perry said that the Baker Hughes selection process also involved Miller Land Development Ltd., the Massillon Development Foundation, the city’s chamber of commerce and other Stark county and regional development organizations.

Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or jmackinnon@thebeaconjournal.com.