As work continues on the expansion project at the V.C. Summer Nuclear plant in Jenkinsville. There has been much discussion at county council meetings about the effect the project has had upon the area economy and jobs creation.
The $10 billion expansion project will bring 800 permanent jobs and have a huge impact on the area according to Fairfield County Economic Development Director Tiffany Harrison.
She said there will be an opportunity for local people to be hired on as members of the 3,000 to 3,500 person work force required to construct the new facility.
Though the focus is on construction now, Harrison said the expansion will add 800 full-time positions, beginning in 2016 when the first new reactor comes online.
She encouraged persons to take advantage of the Midlands Technical College Nuclear Operator Certificate program to position themselves not only for those jobs but the approximately 1,000 existing jobs, some of which will come available as current workers reach retirement age.
“There is time for people to pursue these stable career paths,” according to Harrison. Additional jobs would involve human resources, security, Internet technology, and craftspeople.
She noted there are benefits to a company like SCANA hiring locally because there is less likelihood that those workers would move elsewhere in search of jobs.
She believes that increased awareness from media attention and public relations efforts will help people to know opportunities are out there.
“Of course, we want our citizens to have as many opportunities as possible. Hopefully increased awareness helps,” said Harrison.
Some 52 percent of the state’s power comes from nuclear power, so when Harrison makes a sales pitch for other industry to come into the area, the stable source of base load power generation at V.C. Summer is an important factor.
She noted that some of the property tax revenue from the existing plant has been used to fund expansion of the county’s new industrial park.
The funding was made with general obligation bonds that were issued without a millage increase and Harrison said that the county would not have that bonding capacity were it not for the funding from the nuclear plant.
In addition, the $21 million in property tax revenue the plant pays annually to Fairfield helps the county to have more police, hospital and EMS services than rural counties of comparable size to this one’s 24,000 residents.
Adding two new nuclear plants will increase funding that can go toward roads, education and infrastructure.
According to Rhonda O’Banion with public relations for SCE&G’s V.C. Summer Nuclear Station, the nuclear station is the largest employer in Fairfield County.
That economic impact is felt in employees pocketbooks.
“According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, employees working at U.S. nuclear plants are paid 36 percent more on average than other people in their local communities,” O’Banion said.
The nuclear footprint can be felt in education as well.
SCANA also contributed $100,000 to the Midlands Tech QuickJobs Center to help equip the facility to train persons in specific skills like welding and pipe fitting that will be needed during the construction phase and in operating the new units.
Chief Nuclear Officer for SCE&G Jeff Archie serves on the advisory board at the QuickJobs center and has also given speeches to help encourage young people to aim for nuclear-related career paths.
The nuclear internship program now includes high school students as well.
Thus far in the expansion project, there has been some economic benefit to the county.
Glenn and Associates Survey Company is one local business subcontracted out for the nuclear plant work.
Citing nuclear security precautions, company president Mike Mills could not offer specifics about the work other than to say that the company has offered a number of surveying services for various phases of the project.
“Because of the the project and these economic times with the steady nature of the work, that has allowed us to hire new employees,” Mills said.
He said they have hired five employees since the project started and said that the added business enabled the company to retain all the employees it had prior to the five new ones being added.
The hires increased his company workforce by one-fourth.
“I believe the plant (expansion) has had a positive economic impact and is benefiting everyone in Fairfield County, not just us,” Mills added.
Bhaichand Patel, manager of the Days Inn, said that if customers stay for nuclear related business they receive a special rate.
He reported a handful of people regularly coming here and staying.
He anticipates that more customers will arrive as work increases on the project. He also said that as a member of the chamber of commerce, he has his staff encourage the customers to shop locally.
Other organizations such as Christ Central Ministries are considering offering package deals to entice workers to live, eat and shop in Fairfield County. However that work is still preliminary at this time.