The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Lost jobs could start being replaced this week
Civic leaders see an announcement by an employer as the first step toward what they are calling economic diversification.

By Jimmy Nesbitt The Paducah Sun
BARKLEY THIELEMAN/The Sun Chairman reacts: Ken Wheeler (center), chairman of the Greater Paducah Economic Development Council, addresses the media Monday with McCracken County Judge-Executive Danny Orazine (left) and Paducah Mayor Bill Paxton listening.

City and county officials have a five-year plan to replace the 1,270 jobs lost when the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant closes in 2010, and expect to announce the first step this week with a commitment from a company that will eventually bring more than 100 jobs.

Paducah Mayor Bill Paxton, who spoke Monday morning at a press conference at City Hall, said an announcement could come "in the next day or so," but he wouldn't provide details.

Although he was disappointed with the announcement that USEC Inc. will locate its $1.5 billion plant in Piketon, Ohio, Paxton said the loss of the plant allows the community to diversify its economy. He hopes to lure industries to Paducah that have benefits and salaries that are competitive with the wages and benefits at the plant.

Paxton and McCracken County Judge-Executive Danny Orazine received a call around 9 a.m. Monday from a USEC official who confirmed the company's decision.

"I don't think that was really a surprise to anyone here in the community," Orazine said.

"Even though we're disappointed, I'm still upbeat with what our future holds for us, because we're going to have at least until the end of this decade before this plant is closed."

Orazine said he is counting on growth at the regional industrial park in northern Graves County, the Information Age Park and the industrial park on Olivet Church Road to offset the loss. "We've already started putting a lot more money in economic development," Orazine said. "These seeds are going to pay off. We're just going to have to work a lot harder."

The loss of the plant to Piketon wasn't "because of our effort," Orazine said. "Ohio just beat us out."

USEC officials have said Paducah's proximity to the New Madrid Fault coupled with the lack of an existing building for the plant, which Ohio has, put it at a disadvantage.

"(When) you factor in the time that it would have taken to build a similar building here in Paducah, it was just entirely too much to overcome," Paxton said.

Ken Wheeler, chairman of the Greater Paducah Economic Development Council, said at the press conference that Paducah "can compete with any community in the nation" for new industry.

"We're going to tell you things this week that will emphasize that fact," he said.

Residents around the plant also weren't surprised by the announcement. Marshall Bobo, 70, who lives about two miles northeast of the plant on Gibson Road, said he "figured it would happen.

"I hate to see the people there lose their jobs," he said. "I hate to see anyone lose his job."