Sixty years ago, Dresden Station
Unit 1 came online and it forever cemented Grundy County as an "energy county" with all the benefits, and sometimes downsides, that affords. Since then, two additional nuclear reactor units began and the first was retired. Around the region, more energy assets emerged including Collins Station, cogeneration plants, biofuels, natural gas fractionation, wind and now solar power.
The changing energy markets have posed a significant challenge to the long-term viability of Dresden Station and other Illinois nuclear plants. The low price of natural gas, recent FERC rulings, and the proliferation of renewable wind and solar have all played a role in stressing Illinois’ nuclear assets. It is difficult to see what the future holds, but it is crystal clear the importance of Dresden Station to the local economy.
Recently the Grundy Economic Development Council and the Grundy County Chamber of Commerce, commissioned Northern Illinois University to study the impact of Dresden Station on the region and to analyze the potential impact should the plant ever close. The results are sobering and bring to light the importance of this plant and importance of keeping it open into the future. The affects reach far beyond the immediate Coal City and Diamond communities and impact jobs, salaries, Grundy County’s GDP and much more.
When a facility the size and magnitude of Dresden Station shuts down, it is not just the employees at the facility that are impacted. The multiplier effect estimates the magnitude of the economic impact in a geographic area in terms of jobs and spending. For example, what about the contractors that work at the plant, the hotels that are used during outages, the local hospital supported by employees, the restaurants, gas stations and the list goes on. The multiplier in the case of Dresden is significant and the impacts wide-spread.
Dresden Station employs approximately 800 people but supports many more. The study indicates that for every 100 jobs at Dresden Station an additional 107 jobs are supported in other industries. So when considering the possibility of lost employment, the number is much closer to 1,700 jobs. This includes direct Dresden employees but also the construction contractors, technical services, restaurant workers, health care and much more. To put that number in context, this is approximately 6.5% of the Grundy County labor force and would nearly triple Grundy County’s current unemployment number.
Dresden Station employees are our neighbors, friends, community leaders, coaches and simply put, part of the fabric of Grundy County. The GEDC, Chamber, and local leaders will be working hard in the months to come to try and preserve these very important jobs.
• Nancy Norton is the president and CEO of Grundy County Economic Development