The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky

DOE funds drying up for PACRO

The Department of Energy is ending funding for all community reuse organizations such as PACRO, which will get funding under a new name.

By Joe Walker

Thursday, April 21, 2005


With U.S. Department of Energy funding running out, a regional economic development group has cloned itself in hopes of securing other public and private dollars to survive.

The Paducah Area Community Reuse Organization executive committee voted Wednesday to establish the Paducah Area Asset Utilization Board, which assumed parts of the PACRO program and will absorb the rest when DOE funding ceases Sept. 30. PACRO Director John Anderson called the new board a "mirror" of the old.

"We want to make it clear to DOE that we will not be requesting more money from it," he said. "There is no more money to get."

PACRO was formed in 1997 to use Energy Department money to offset job losses at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. In eight years, the group has committed about $10.4 million to projects that have created or preserved 1,694 jobs at a cost of $5,928 per job, which "stacks up rather well" with similar organizations nationwide, Chairman Marty Nichols said.

Because DOE is ending funding for all community reuse organizations, they must seek other monetary sources. Anderson is pursuing about $1 million federal grants and administrative funding to help market the Purchase Area Regional Industrial Park in northern Graves County and develop a master plan to reuse the 1,270-job diffusion plant once it closes starting in 2010. The plan would be done by a neutral consultant, weighing the need to create jobs and ensure cleanup, he said.

PACRO brokered a deal with recycling company TOXCO to rid the plant of contaminated fluorine cells, saving taxpayers about $2.5 million in cleanup costs. The new board is pursuing similar contracts to create a stronger private income source. Among other things, there are discussions with firms about recycling thousands of tons of contaminated nickel, saving $8 million to $10 million in cleanup expense.

Since its inception, PACRO has:

Made nearly $441,000 in low-interest loans to six current or former plant workers to start businesses, creating or retaining 72 jobs. Current loan recipients are local cleanup firm JBS Inc. and Honey Enterprises, a Chinese-American restaurant.

Helped obtain more than $10 million in state and federal funding for the regional industrial park.

Funneled about $7.2 million into spec buildings and infrastructure for five county industrial parks in the region. The program has created or preserved 950 jobs, mostly through businesses that moved into the buildings.

Provided financing for a database through West Kentucky Community and Technical College and the plant nuclear workers' union to market the skills of displaced plant workers. The database is responsible for creating or retaining 335 jobs.