Alcoa: Stanly holding up jobs, $300 million investment

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 9, 2011

By Karissa Minn
kminn@salisburypost.com
BADIN — Alcoa says it wants to help bring a new business and hundreds of jobs to the town of Badin, but it won’t be able to do that until it reaches an agreement with Stanly County.
Clean Tech Silicon and Bar LLC, a green energy company that makes silicon for the solar industry and recycles scrap metal into rebar, has said it wants to locate a plant in Badin and invest $300 million.
“Clean Tech has been very interested in Badin for some time,” said Mike Belwood, a spokesman with Alcoa Power Generating Inc. “We’ve worked very closely with them to try to attract them to Stanly County.”
Belwood said Thursday that one of the Badin site’s prime business attractions is its infrastructure — including its “power resources.”
Alcoa owns and operates four dams on the Yadkin River, which once powered the company’s now-shuttered aluminum smelting plant. That electricity could be part of negotiations with companies looking to locate there.
But Alcoa has been operating the dams under short-term licenses since its 50-year license expired in 2007. It’s now trying to secure a new license.
“We have been in discussions with commissioners,” Belwood said. “We believe we did make a very substantial offer that includes provisions that would provide up to 750 jobs at the Badin site or economic support until that number was reached.”
But in return, Alcoa wants Stanly County to come on board with its relicensing effort for the Yadkin Hydroelectric project, according to County Commissioner Tony Dennis.
Dennis said he thinks Alcoa is holding the jobs “hostage” to get the county to drop its legal challenge of Alcoa’s water quality certificate.
The company must have that certificate, issued by the Division of Water quality in the N.C. Department of Environment and National Resources, to get a new long-term license to operate its dams.
Neither Dennis nor Belwood would go into detail about Alcoa’s offer to Stanly County.
Dennis did say the county had made previous offers to Alcoa and tried to negotiate, but commissioners could not accept the deal offered at a Tuesday night meeting.
“It was not a good deal. They offered us pennies for what it’s worth,” Dennis said. “There’s no guarantees (Clean Tech) will even stay there.”
He said the river belongs to the people, not to Alcoa.
Belwood did not confirm that Stanly County’s lawsuit was part of Alcoa’s offer, only saying it’s important for the company “that we have a clear path forward to relicensing.”
“We are disappointed that we haven’t reached an agreement at this point,” Belwood said. “It is important for people to understand that we are competing for these jobs, and time is running out.”
Badin resident Vanessa Mullinix has helped organize a “rally for jobs” at 6 p.m. today in the parking lot behind Albemarle City Hall.
She said Thursday that speakers will include Badin Mayor Jim Harrison, Albemarle Mayor Ebert “Whit” Whitley and Storm Technologies CEO Dick Storm.
Mullinix, who owns a furnishings and home decor business called Cottage House in Badin, said anyone is invited who wants to show support for bringing Clean Tech to the area.
“We just want to show Clean Tech that we do want them and show the county commissioners that we do want jobs,” Mullinix said. “Stanly County has an unemployment rate of about 11 percent. We need jobs here.”
At least 300 jobs were lost when Alcoa’s Badin Works aluminum smelting plant closed in 2002.
The company says it is now actively recruiting businesses to the Badin Business Park, located at the site of the former plant.
Its first tenant, Electronic Recyclers International (ERI), announced plans in May to open a regional recycling hub there and provide up to 200 jobs.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
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