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Economy goes 'BOOM' as overhaul work begins

The Hunter Plant turbine bay is a flurry of activity as contractors overhaul Unit No2.

Sun Advocate reporter

Late winter is usually a siow season for Gilly's motel, cabins and restaurant in Ferron. This year is different. "All our rooms and cabins are booked. Gasoline sales are up. We're selling an awful lot of fuel," said Gilly's owner Tina Benson, adding that her restaurant operation is also selling a lot more meals.

The reason for the surge in business is the overhaul of PacifiCorp's Hunter No. 2 unit now under way. Last week saw the arrival of about 1,000 highly skilled and well-paid contract workers. This week 400 more should show up the the plant halfway between Castle Dale and Ferron.

These are small towns, each with populations of less than 2,000. So when their lodging capacity hits the limit, the demand for rooms spreads outward like ripples in a pond.

The Village Inn Motel in Huntington has the neon red "No" lit beside the "Vacancy" sign out front. And moving even further north to Price, Holiday Inn general manager David Zwahlen said his business is "definitely feeling the effect" of the massive influx of workers.

"There are lots of folks staying in Green River," added Mike McCandless, Emery County economic development director. McCandless also said area campgrounds are also getting full. "It's amazing how many of these guys camp. They move around a lot and they're very good with logistics."

An even bigger impact than lodging is in retail sales, he continued. Fuel and tobacco sales are up by "tens of thousands of dollars a week." Restaurants have extended hours to accommodate the long shifts of the visiting workers, with some eateries opening at 4 a.m.

The exact dollar amount of the increased spending is tough to calculate, but McCandless suggested that even if the average overhaul worker spends only $30 a day, you can multiply it out to get a rough idea. Here's the equation: 1,400 workers x $30/day x 60 days = $2,520,000, give or take a few bucks.

If the average worker spends like a tourist, staying in a motel, eating all meals in restaurants and buying gas for the commute, that $30 per day figure is much higher. a rough idea. Here's the equation: 1,400 workers x $30/day x 60 days = $2,520,000, give or take a few bucks.

The reason for this overhaul population being bigger than usual is that the company is retrofitting some major pollution control equipment in addition to the routine tear-down and reassembly of working parts.

The company is replacing its smoke-removing electrostatic precipitators with a baghouse. Precipitors put an electric charge on smoke particles, then collect them on oppositely-charged metal plates.

A baghouse works like a building full of vacuum cleaner bags. It is more energy efficient and removes much more ash than the precipitators.

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