About 100 local construction workers are making their best effort to land jobs with Chicago Bridge and Iron to help build the $500 million Dominion Resources natural gas processing plant at Natrium.
After months of placing signs along local roadways demanding that Dominion hire local employees to build the plant, members of the West Virginia State Building and Construction Trades Council went to the CB&I New Martinsville office Wednesday to seek employment. The construction project is expected to employ 600 workers during its construction phase over the next two years. Dominion is paying CB&I to build the plant.
The local construction workers applied for positions ranging from operating engineers to carpenters and boilermakers. Rick Sheets, an operating engineer from Dallas in Marshall County, has 34 years of work experience and is currently unemployed.
Photo by Casey Junkins
The Dominion Resources Natrium processing plant, slated to be up and running by December, is slowly taking shape along the Ohio River in Marshall County.
"This is our home," Sheets said. "There's work here and we have a lot of qualified, local, skilled people here to fill these jobs. There's no reason to pass us over and bring in workers from out of state. They won't be disappointed in our work."
Officials with CB&I did not respond to requests for comment. Dominion spokesman Charles Penn said 308 construction workers were working on the Natrium job site Wednesday, 152 of whom came from the local area.
"By virtue of these numbers, you can come to the conclusion that local workers are being hired by CB&I," said Penn. "We see this as a mere publicity stunt to draw attention to the ACT Foundation."
The ACT Foundation, formally known as the Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation, is a division of the state building trades council.
"We have nothing against hiring local people, as long as those local people are qualified," said Penn, again emphasizing that Dominion is not hiring anyone for the Natrium project - all hiring is done by CB&I.
Information from ACT Foundation Director Steve White notes that the union construction workers "must undergo drug testing and years of training to be certified in their crafts." He believes there are roughly 20,000 workers who are qualified, drug free and ready to work in the natural gas industry.
"Area residents report an influx of out-of-state people setting up in campgrounds that can be seen popping up in Marshall and Wetzel counties," White states. "Dominion's reluctance to commit to hiring locally spurred the local workers to apply for the construction jobs. They're ready to prove themselves as qualified and drug free, just the type of worker the industry claims it is looking for."