The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Thursday, April 25, 2002

PACRO spending to face greater scrutiny
Under the new guidelines, money not spent by the group trying to help offset lost jobs will be trimmed from the next year's budget.

By Joe Walker jwalker@paducahsun.com--270.575.8650

Greater scrutiny is ahead for federal money used by an economic development group to help offset jobs lost at the Paducah uranium enrichment plant.

Under new Department of Energy guidelines, money not spent by the Paducah Area Community Reuse Organization will be trimmed from the next year's budget. Although PACRO has not received any money for the past two years, it has more than $1.2 million remaining from the $8.4 million committed in its first three years.

PACRO Director John Anderson said he hopes to move the leftover money and any new money from spending shortfalls into a low-interest loan fund to help develop industrial parks and start small businesses. Some of the existing money is already in the fund.

The Energy Department has the final say, but "we've been told unofficially that won't be a problem," he said.

Ric Ladt, PACRO chairman, said the guideline changes are supposed to give the Paducah group and 14 other counterparts nationwide equal access to shrinking federal dollars. A few years ago, there was $40 million available to help lessen the economic impact of DOE plant closures and layoffs across the nation; now there is $20 million, he said.

"Congress wants to sever this program," Ladt said. "We're one of the last organizations to come in."

Stricter rules also take into account economic development groups' performance, including their history of spending and results, and the rules require new money for many services to be matched locally.

"They want to see jobs per dollars spent," Ladt said. "There are some major changes coming about, and we have to be prepared for them."

At its monthly meeting Wednesday, the PACRO executive committee reviewed the Paducah group's performance since its 1997 inception. The nearly $7.2 million spent during the past five years is credited with retaining 371 jobs at a cost of $19,307 per job.

Of the total:

--215 jobs were retained because of PACRO-funded spec buildings and improvements in industrial parks in Graves County and Massac County, Ill. PACRO loans and grants also have paid for similar upgrades in industrial parks in McCracken, Ballard and Marshall counties.

PACRO also has given about $263,000 in grants toward a proposed regional industrial park in northern Graves County. The money has helped put 1,110 acres under three-year purchase options. There are verbal commitments with landowners for another 500 acres.

--111 jobs were kept via PACRO-funded projects, allowing energy workers' union employees to switch from plant operator USEC Inc. to Bechtel Jacobs, the Energy Department's lead environmental contractor.

--45 jobs were preserved through low-interest loans helping displaced USEC workers with small business ventures.