Toby Rice is connected. He’s connected to every layer it takes to bring gas out of the ground and get it to market. Connected to the infrastructure, connected to the vendors, connected to his employees and possibly most importantly, connected to the landowners and the communities in which they live.
“The landowners are our partners. We realized the community will recognize its friends.”
The three Rice brothers started their company a decade ago, going into landowners’ homes and making their pitch. Rice Energy quickly became one of the major players in the Marcellus region.
“From the beginning, we wanted people to know our values: stewardship, teamwork, seeking excellence and innovation. To be the best, to be the operator of choice, both for leasing and drilling and to be environmentally safe, we have to relate to the community.”
And relate they did.
Their most visible community initiative is Marcellus Mania, a celebration featuring family activities and a fundraising campaign that benefits local first responders. Held this past year at the Greene County Fairgrounds, it offered live music, petting zoo, face painting, balloons, ice cream, bingo, and bounce houses, all free to participants. By leaning on vendors and other contacts, Rice raised more than $800,000 for local Volunteer Fire Departments. The decision to fund local VFD’s was an obvious one. Most gas drilling is done in rural areas, where the VFD is often a focal point of community activity, and everyone needs them, including the gas companies. In its six-year history, Marcellus Mania has raised more than $2.5 million for 45 teams of local first responders.
Rice Energy has found ways to partner with the community - fun ways, creative ways, ways that make a difference in the lives of the people they serve. One initiative started as a quirky idea in a meeting: During the drilling process, people get annoyed with the increased truck traffic in their neighborhoods. So, the team thought, what kind of trucks do people look forward to seeing? How about an ice cream truck! Now, the Rice Cream Truck can be found distributing free treats to people living in the communities where Rice Energy operates. It doesn’t mitigate the truck traffic, but it does bring a smile to people’s faces.
Toby Rice also encourages employees to join the Blue Crew, a group of Rice employees who regularly partner and volunteer with local non-profits. Since its inception, members of the Blue Crew have dedicated about 7,000 hours of volunteer time, 3,700 just last year. Volunteer events included Adopt-A-Highway cleanups, serving meals with City Mission, ringing bells for the Salvation Army Kettle Campaign, wrapping presents for Operation Christmas Child, and many others. Last November, Rice Energy volunteers prepared, cooked and served a delicious Thanksgiving meal and distributed just as many winter coats to over 1,000 Washington and Greene County residents at its annual Plate of Plenty events.
“I am so proud of our people, working a long day and then going out and helping others. The Blue Crew is one way we try to make the world a better place.”
Rice is also a loyal supporter of groups that help facilitate youth leadership and learning. They have contributed more than $350,000 to local 4-H groups and county fairs, including their long-standing tradition of purchasing the Grand Champion Rabbit at the Washington County Fair. “Our demographic is farmers,” Toby said. “4H teaches leadership and responsibility at a young age.” That fits with the Rice vision of making the world a better place.
Because the company demonstrates a corporate philosophy of community service, Rice Energy is deserving of the Charles C. Keller Excellence Award for Corporate Philanthropy.
But Toby Rice said it better.
“To maintain our social license to operate- we have to be welcome and supportive.”
By Dorothy Tecklenburg