COVER — In less than a year, the economic landscape in Van Buren County is expected to change significantly with the closure of the Palisades Nuclear Generating Station.
In an effort to identify potential issues, the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission plans to conduct a study to determine the pros and cons the county faces from closing Palisades.
“The study will be conducted and authored by the UM-Economic Growth Initiative with support from Kinexus (Group),” said John Faul, former Van Buren County Administrator, appointed project director for the Palisades Recovery Plan. . “We hope to have it completed by early 2022, but that depends on gathering information, such as worker demographics.”
Once the study is complete, Faul and Kinexus will analyze the impact of Palisades on Van Buren County and southwestern Michigan to determine the ramifications of what the closure will mean.
The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission received a $969,000 grant from the US Economic Development Administration this summer — along with more than $240,000 in matching funds — to fund economic development efforts over the next three years. to deal with the fallout from the plant closure.
Part of the grant will fund the study, Faul said.
“From there, we will be able to identify gaps and, combined with an analysis of the strengths that we could build on, develop an economic recovery plan,” Faul said. “Using this plan will help us target funding sources to implement the plan. Because the State Treasury Department and MSHDA (Michigan State Housing Development Authority) are at the table, they are committed to helping find specific grant opportunities once needs are known.
One of the most pressing concerns at this point is the loss of employees, who have moved to southwestern Michigan.
“It’s more than jobs and taxable income, rather it’s employees who live here and provide $200 million a year to Southwest Michigan in total economic impact. Employees who are the social fabric of communities,” Faul said last month during a report to South Haven City Council.
Located near the shore of Lake Michigan in Covert Township, Palisades employs approximately 600 people. It also has an additional 1,000 employees during fuel shortages, channels $8 million in property tax revenue countywide each year, and donates approximately $350,000 each year to various nonprofits throughout the county. .
Faul has made it a priority to help communities and county government units make up for the loss of Palisades.
The plant, which was first commissioned 50 years ago, will cease operations in May 2022, when its owner, Entergy Corp., hands over operations to Holtec Corp., which will be in charge of the dismantling of plant and site over the next 20 years.
In August, South Haven council members and other local residents began to worry about the number of Palisades workers in the area who would lose their jobs.
“The labor details are very smooth as the plant is still running,” Faul said. “Basically, there are around 600 employees. Some will remain – around 250 – for the dismantling process. Some will move with Entergy. Some will stay in the area and work elsewhere – for example, Cook’s nuclear power station in Bridgman; and some will retire.
Faul estimates that around 150 workers will not fit into any of these categories and will be left to seek employment elsewhere.
To address this issue, Faul plans to work with Entergy, Michigan Works and other state groups to apply for funds to help retrain workers and create new jobs and businesses in Southwest Michigan.