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New Dominion electric plant to help power Southwest Virginia economy

Steve Igo • Jan 2, 2009 at 12:00 AM

ST. PAUL — Dominion Virginia Power’s new electricity generating station in St. Paul will generate a lot more than its 585 megawatt power capacity.

Planned to be operational in 2012, the coal-fired power plant is expected to provide a big boost to Southwest Virginia’s economy. Construction began in early summer on the $1.8 billion facility, and the four-year construction phase alone will employ up to 800 workers drawing an average salary of better than $41,000 each, a projected annual “ripple” effect into the local economy of about $150 million.

Each construction worker provides a value of nearly $100,000 annually into the local economy, according to a Virginia Tech study on the economic impact of the power plant. The same study projected new tax revenues for Wise County and St. Paul at around $6 million annually.

“The power plant is not just the biggest economic development for Wise County, it’s the biggest in the whole region in my opinion,” said Wise County Industrial Development Authority Executive Director Carl Snodgrass.

“The estimated tax revenue of $6 million is still subject to values to be assigned by the (State Corporation Commission), but it will be significant. In addition, there will be the stable creation of 75 permanent jobs at a good pay scale and benefits. The impact for Wise County will likely be the ability to do projects we couldn’t do otherwise. Of course, in the back of everyone’s mind is school consolidation, but I can’t speak to that.”

The 75 permanent power plant staffers will average an annual salary of better than $60,000, according to the Virginia Tech study.

Also linked to the power plant is direct support for 250 to 300 mining jobs annually, and the associated spiraling “ripple” effect in areas such as the mine industry support sector is significant.

“The mining aspect is a whole lot by itself. That payroll plays into the local economy year after year, too. Mining jobs that aren’t retained as a result of the power plant certainly will be created as a result,” Snodgrass said.

In 2007 dollars, the SCC figures 4.6 million megawatts generated annually from the new Dominion facility at just 90 percent of capacity would generate an annual economic impact of well over $410 million.

Another plus is the opportunity presented by a byproduct of the coal consumption process. Fly ash is useful in the production of other products, Snodgrass said, so the potential for a spin-off industry is good.

Another potential benefit of the power plant for Wise County, Snodgrass said, is that other businesses and industries tend to be attracted to areas where economic vitality and power stability is not just available but demonstrated.

“Economic activity because of the power plant could be enormous in the years ahead,” he said.

“But Dominion has already demonstrated that it is an excellent corporate citizen. Some examples include support of the High Knob Tower (rebuilding effort) and support for many school activities,” Snodgrass said. “They will be a significant contributor to our tax base, for sure. But even more, we feel like they will continue to foster that good corporate citizen relationship for many, many years to come.”

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