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Plant addition could spark local economy

Plant addition could spark local economy

November 22nd, 2010 in News

FULTON SUN file photo Gov. Jay Nixon announced plans on Friday to pursue a second nuclear power plant in Callaway County.

Fulton business leaders have been working through the DREAM project to begin a revitalization of downtown, but the addition of a second reactor at the Ameren UE Callaway Power Plant could help that process along.

"It can't hurt. There's more to reviving downtown's business community than just adding several jobs into this economy, though," said Bruce Hackmann, CEO of Fulton Development Corp. "The people will be a great boost, but deeper than that, we have to define more of what we want downtown to be. Then, we can get the right mix of businesses that can take advantage of the type of people that are going to be shopping in our downtown."

Kingdom of Callaway Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Nancy Lewis said the DREAM project has been around in Fulton for a couple of years.

"We've been working on it," she said. "But when local people don't support local businesses, they just can't survive. It just happens in small communities. People go to the bigger communities to shop. I would bet the people in Columbia go to Kansas City and St. Louis to shop because it's bigger."

Gov. Nixon's Friday announcement supporting expansion at the plant was met with cautious optimism in Callaway County.

Most people noted the changes would not take effect tomorrow, but were excited about the announcement.

"This is great news for everyone," County Commissioner Lee Fritz said. "It will bring employment opportunities and economic growth, but will also bring a stable supply of energy for years to come."

Hackmann said the expansion will have a major impact on Callaway County.

"I think businesses have to look at this from a positive standpoint," he said. "For the business community, which needs a shot in the arm, this will be a big lift for everyone."

Hackmann was pleased with the idea of job creation.

"This is a great boost at a great time," Hackmann said. "Jobs are so, so important right now. Job creation is the only way we're going to turn this economy back around and we are so glad Callaway County is going to be the centerpiece of this job creation."

This is not the first time Callaway has been excited for the prospect of expansion at the plant.

"We anticipated this several years ago when we thought this announcement was very close," Hackmann said. "We thought the outcome was very close. When it did not happen, there was a letdown for many people. This will help a lot of businesses and support services that depend on the type of growth that will occur as a result of the expansion."

Lewis said a group of people were involved in deciding how to market Fulton and Callaway County two years ago.

"I anticipate that we will get that group together again," she said. "The number of jobs and money coming into the county as a result of this will make a huge boost to the economy."

Area residents remembered 30 years ago when the first reactor was built.

"There were quite a bit of things that came into Callaway because of that," Fritz said.

According to Hackmann, there was some trepidation from the idea of nuclear power 30 years ago.

"I think those concerns have passed," he said. "Ameren UE has proven to be a reliable and safe operator, and I think 30 years ago - when nuclear power was coming onto the scene - there was some skepticism out there, but many of those types of fears have been alleviated by the track record that plants like Callaway have had.

"They have proven to be safe operations, strong employers and we are grateful for the types of jobs they bring to Callaway."