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Nuke deal to power jobs

Alex Green • Feb 2, 2014 at 2:00 PM

The typically stagnant winter economy in Ottawa County is about to get a boost, compliments of the nuclear industry.

Davis-Besse Power Station’s outage means droves of contractors will be funneling into local hotels and businesses. Some contractors have already arrived, and some hotels are booked.

As the plant gears up to replace two steam generators, it needs an additional 2,300 workers, said Jennifer Young, FirstEnergy spokeswoman.

Phoenix-based consulting firm Applied Economics recently completed a study on the power plant’s steam generator replacement project and outage. In short, the study shows the project means big bucks for contractors, businesses and plenty of others in the mix.

Among the benefits of the project:

• A total economic impact of about $500 million.

• A total contractor payroll of about $147 million.

• About 940 of the contractors are local. They’ll collectively spend an estimated $80 million at local businesses during the outage.

• Local hotels and motels are expected to log about 19,200 visitor nights, providing non-local contractors places to stay. This should inject about $2.5 million into the local economy over the next six months.

• The power plant’s new equipment costs about $430 million. For local government, this should create annual new property tax revenue of about $2.4 million a year.

Contractors are already staying at local hotels, but the population should increase most dramatically in March and April, company officials said.

Local business owners are simply thankful for the boost in typically slow times.

“Usually, this time of year, we’re (happy) if 5 percent of our properties are occupied,” said Mike Snider, vice president of rental operations for Lake Erie Vacation Rentals. “By this Sunday, we’ll have 100 percent occupied”

Lake Erie Vacation Rentals is an umbrella organization for property rentals, managing dozens of privately owned condo and beach home rentals.

Snider said the outage’s benefits are already seen across the county, and not just in property rental increases.

“I was out to eat last week and we had to wait for a table,” he said. “That usually doesn’t happen, even on the weekends”

Larry Fletcher, executive director of Lake Erie Shores & Islands West, said businesses are changing the way they operate to accommodate the temporary bump in population.

“Businesses are extending their hours,” Fletcher said. “Some that would normally be closed this time of year are staying open”

The plant’s existing steam generators have been in use since operations began in 1977, Young said.

“The current ones do not pose a safety threat,” she said. “The new steam generators will increase longterm reliability”

Davis-Besse could certainly use the boost in reliability, given the facility’s serious safety issues in recent years.

Young said the company has made concentrated efforts to improve safety at the power plant. FirstEnergy wants to extend Davis-Besse’s operating license to 2037.

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