It couldn’t have come at a better time for the Rockdale area. It’s generally been believed once the Unit 4 project was over the full impact of the Alcoa closing would be pretty much here.
In early February there were about 1,200 workers on the job at Luminant’s Unit 4 power plant, installing sophisticated anti-pollution devices, a project which certainly gave the area a shot in the arm.
Today there are between 100 and 200, a number that dwindles every week. The work is complete and the project is in the cleanup and demobilization stage.
Of course the regular “every day” Luminant work force of about 300 remain on hand to operate both units plus the Three Oaks Mine.
For most of the last year hundreds of laid-off Alcoans were receiving supplementary unemployment benefit (SUB) pay. That’s a sizeable percentage of their former pay.
But that’s running out, too, and in some cases it’s already gone. SUB pay is more difficult to get a handle on because it’s hundreds of individual cases instead of one big project.
However, it’s inevitable all the SUB pay will run out in not too long. Almost all the layoffs at what was once an 1,100-job facility were made between August, 2008, and February, 2009, between 13 and 18 months ago.
So where does that leave us? Latest unemployment rate in Milam County was 11.2 and it’s been as high as 11.8. But there’s actually been some new business activity in Rockdale with openings and re-openings.
Surprisingly, the Rockdale ISD opened the 2009-2010 year with a slight enrollment increase and has been maintaining that through the year.
The new project is most welcome. But it too will pass.—M.B.