Our Opinion: Gamble on steel plant is sure bet

Published 6:22 pm Wednesday, May 16, 2007

By Staff
Escambia County has the opportunity to invest in the largest private economic development program in the country - and it may be a gamble, but it's a pretty sure bet.
Escambia County is one of just four Alabama counties invited to take part in the economic incentive plan that helped land ThyssenKrupp AG, the German steelmaker that is planning a $3.7 billion plant in north Mobile County. The four counties, one Mississippi county and several municipalities are looking to form a regional economic development authority.
The pessimist looks at such an opportunity and wonders why we're being asked to pony up when others aren't.
The optimist looks at the opportunities such an investment could create for our county.
With Atmore just 54 miles away and Brewton just 85 miles from the plant, our county stands to gain greatly from ThyssenKrupp's presence in south Alabama.
Escambia County's commission was the first officially to vote to take part in the new regional group - and we're proud that our commissioners are taking this first important step toward investing in the project.
An economic impact study expected to be released later this week will likely give us an idea just how much Escambia County will be asked to contribute, but if all of the counties and municipalities sign on, that will lessen the financial burden for all.
We see so much potential from this company and its inevitable spinoff industries and jobs. The company is expected to employ 2,700 people at an average salary of $50,000 per year - but there could be up to 29,000 construction jobs available before the plant opens in 2010. And with related industries, the number of jobs could hit 38,000 to 50,000 over 20 years, company officials have said.
With our communities sitting so close to the plant, some of those jobs - and the tax revenue - are bound to flow into Escambia County, although no one is sure just how much.
That makes taking part in the project something of a risk - but one for which we will surely see more benefits than what we invest.

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