CUMBERLAND -- State and local officials were gathering today to kick off the latest boost to Allegany County's economy: a $400 million steam and electric plant, believed to be one of the most costly construction projects in Western Maryland history.
The AES Warrior Run cogeneration plant will create more than 1,000 jobs, including construction, plant operation and coal mining-related jobs and generate more than $3 billion in total economic impact, according to Steve V. Hase, development manager for AES Warrior Run Inc.
About 65 to 70 people will be employed -- in mostly highly technical jobs -- at the plant when it becomes operational in 1999, Mr. Hase said. About one-third will be hired locally.
The plant will have an annual payroll of about $4 million, including benefits, he said, and will generate $100 million in state and county tax revenues.
The plant will burn 600,000 to 650,000 tons of coal mined from Garrett and Allegany counties each year -- about one-quarter of the tonnage produced annually, Mr. Hase said.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening was among those expected at today's ground-breaking at a 75-acre site in the Allegany County Industrial Park south of Cumberland.
The AES project comes at a time when Allegany County is experiencing some job growth. A new federal prison that opened last year in the same industrial park created about 150 jobs. A new state prison will mean 500 jobs. Two small manufacturing companies that plan to locate in Cumberland will mean another 50 jobs.
"We believe we have stabilized, diversified and have begun to grow just a little bit," said John Kirby, acting director of the Allegany County Department of Economic Development.
Electricity generated by the plant will be sold to the Potomac Edison Co. Cyndi Shoop, a Potomac Edison spokeswoman, said the electricity will serve 191,000 customers in Garrett, Allegany, Washington and Frederick counties, and parts of Montgomery, Howard and Carroll counties. Residents are now served by a mix of coal-fired and hydroelectric plants in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and a small coal-burning plant in Hagerstown.
"Over 90 percent of the electricity consumed in Western Maryland is imported from other states," Mr. Hase said. "We want to bring the benefits of local power production home to Allegany County. We think it's important to produce our own power to meet our growing needs."
Cumberland Mayor Edward Athey said the company would help improve the area's long-tattered image.
"AES means jobs, jobs, and jobs to the Cumberland area," Mr. Athey said. "This is one of the most positive things to happen to our area. It has a strong economic impact on the Cumberland area and is a win-win situation for everybody."
The company, he said, has agreed to install transmission lines underground and finance road and sewer improvements in Cumberland.
Arlington, Va.-based AES generates, sells or markets electricity in 35 countries.
The company last year earned $100 million on revenues of $533 million.