Public weighs in on proposed Lordstown plant

I recently attended the Lordstown Village Planning Commission meeting held on May 12, not as a resident of Lordstown, but as a local business owner who is focused on the greater good for our community, and more importantly, the fate of manufacturing in the U.S.

I was shocked by the shortsightedness of the residents of Lordstown as I listened to the opposition to rezone the property on Salt Springs Road from residential to industrial for the proposal to build a new 800-megawatt natural gas power plant in the village.

Oftentimes, as residents of a community, we cannot help but be selfish and wonder how any change in our community it going to affect us directly, but I challenge you as residents, City Council members and leaders of your community to step back for a moment and examine the bigger picture.

As a local steel fabricator, Warren Fabricating Corp. builds the power generation equipment Clean Energy Future LLC may use to provide power, jobs, growth and necessary revenue for the village and the local school system. Historically, about 70 percent of our business has been coal-related power generation components.

We are seven years into a ”War on Coal” and hundreds of new EPA regulations are being enforced, aimed at lowering greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants. Some 207 coal-fired power plants are expected to shut their doors in the current decade, while 138 have already closed their doors since 2009.

There must be a replacement for the power generation needs of this country and natural gas is the future. Clean Energy Future LLC is bringing the village of Lordstown the cleanest, safest, most cost-effective means to produce electricity currently available to us.

One result in communities turning their backs on natural gas power generation is an immediate and drastic rise in electrical rates. You cannot remove 32 percent of the nation’s coal-fired power plants from producing electricity without replacing that need with an alternative without expecting electric rates to skyrocket. The homeowner, residents and existing businesses will suffer drastically.

A lot of the comments from the meeting focused on the fact that Lordstown in general wants the project, just not on that specific piece of land. That specific piece of land is the Holy Grail. It was chosen for a reason. It is the trifecta of power lines, water lines and natural gas lines all necessary to make this project cost effective for the developer.

As a business owner, I am familiar with the amount of due diligence required to choose a site for a project like this and am confident Clean Energy Future LLC has already invested hundreds of thousands of dollars just to determination site location.

For residents to want the project but be able to stipulate the conditions of where it should be is ludicrous. Lordstown has just won the lottery. Would lottery winners turn lottery money away because the government requires them to pay a tax on their winnings? I don’t think so.

I am quite confident that if this rezoning effort fails, the project developer will move on to another community that will embrace the millions of dollars it is willing to invest.

Doing our best to predict the future of power generation, Warren Fabricating has recently invested $4 million in an expansion of a new Bay 4 at our Hubbard facility devoted to the production of natural gas power generation gas and steam turbines. We have invested in a new vertical boring mill, rebuilt and installed a 50-ton crane, 150-ton welding positioner, stress relief furnace and new sub-arc station to double our capacity to produce natural gas powered components.

If Warren Fabricating can fill the anticipated need for these natural gas power plants we can add 30 to 50 new full-time jobs in the next several years, as well as become more competitive with our foreign counterparts.

Are we as a local fabricator going to benefit from this power plant being built in our backyard? It’s possible. As one of the only fabricators in North America that builds this equipment, we are still going to have to bid this project against our competitors in China and Japan, whose extremely low labor rates in comparison to that of an American company’s oftentimes wins the bids on these packages on price alone.

The fact is, the more production hours we can load into our facilities, the more competitive we become in the worldwide marketplace, the more people we can hire, the more taxes we pay … etc.

We are betting on the good folks of Lordstown and the good folks across America to support the building of these natural gas power plants in their communities. In fact, we just bet $4 million on it.

I often speak to hard working Americans who feel powerless of the failing economy or the loss of American jobs to foreign countries and they always ask, ”But what can I do about it?” This is your opportunity, Lordstown, to do something about it. Say YES to progress and prosperity in our community. Say YES to lower electrical rates and to keeping jobs in Trumbull County and in America.

We are not powerless; we have a voice and now is the time to use it. Vote YES to rezone this land industrial and welcome an opportunity that only comes around every couple of generations to our area.

Mitchell is president of Warren Fabricating Corp. Her employees signed this submission.