I've been involved in a lot of economic development projects over the years. Before beginning any project, I ask myself three questions: Does it make sense to do? Will it help the community, the region or the country? Will it still be good for my grandchildren when they grow up? If the answer is yes to those three questions, I consider it a good project.
We at Moundsville Power LLC announced our intention to build a new natural gas, combined-cycle power plant on a 37-acre site south of Moundsville. According to Dr. Tom Witt - an economist who previously served on the faculty at West Virginia University - the plant is projected to create an $815 million economic impact on Marshall County during construction and $283 million each year thereafter.
Once completed, this project will be the first base-load capacity natural gas power plant in West Virginia. By using the abundance of natural gas in the region, we can turn this resource into needed power for West Virginia's and America's power grid.
Moundsville Power will invest an enormous amount of money, time, energy and research into making this power plant an efficient, environmentally conscious, successful operation. We believe that Moundsville Power will be a tremendous asset to Marshall County, as well as to those individuals and families involved in building and operating this privately owned facility.
I believe that the construction of a financially successful operation that contributes to its host community is what effective economic development is all about. In this case, we at Moundsville Power consider ourselves in partnership with the people of Marshall County on what is going to be a tremendously successful economic development enterprise.
We are building a manufacturing facility that will be:
Moundsville Power and its investors are paying for the 100 percent of the plant. It will be privately built and operated.
Moundsville Power will utilize a PILOT/Lease agreement that calls for the company to pay an estimated $44 million to Marshall County over the lifespan of the project. In basic economic terms, that means Moundsville Power will pay a lifespan average of more than $1 million a year to Marshall County for the right to construct the facility in the county. Right now, the property that will house the power plant is paying $2,500 a year in taxes.
A PILOT agreement is the mechanism used throughout West Virginia and the rest of the country for most large-scale, new construction projects. PILOT is an acronym meaning "Payment In Lieu Of Taxes." West Virginia property taxes are, in most cases, not competitive with tax agreements offered in neighboring states. Marshall County will still receive payment; the process just takes a different form - one that is recognized and used all across the country.
We applaud the forward thinking vision of the county and the board of education in their work with us on this project and all of the benefits it will bring the people of Marshall County.
The facility will be a "merchant plant." This means that the plant will create a product to be sold on the open market. In this case, the power produced in Marshall County will be sold to the "grid," which is a jointly owned operation that sells electricity to utilities in 13 states.
Moundsville Power is not a "utility," which means the plant will have no direct consumer customers (can't pass along property taxes to consumers like utilities).
In a nutshell, Moundsville Power is a private manufacturing facility that will use union labor to build its $615 million facility. It will produce a product to be sold on the open market, and that product is electricity.
Marshall County was chosen as the site because the property south of Moundsville where the plant will be constructed is already an industrial site - formerly the Allied Chemical site. It has access to the electrical grid and an excellent supply of natural gas.
Moundsville Power will do the following:
1. We will employ hundreds of union construction workers for approximately 30 months.
2. When construction is completed, we will hire roughly 30 living-wage employees to operate the plant.
3. We will operate a plant that is efficient because it will use both a gas turbine and a steam turbine to generate electricity. The steam turbine will be powered by what would ordinarily be lost heat from the gas turbine.
4. The plant will utilize West Virginia produced and processed natural gas.
5. The project will return a brownfield area to productive use where the Allied Chemical plant previously manufactured chlorinated chemical products.
I have spent much of the past 18 months in Marshall County, and I have found the leadership and business community to be genuine and appreciative of efforts to bring jobs to Moundsville and the surrounding region. We intend to participate in an effective, long-term, mutually beneficial partnership with Marshall County. In the coming months, we look forward to working with Marshall County, its people and its leaders.
Dorn is managing member of Moundsville Power LLC.