September 14, 2011

Illinois companies poised to add thousands of jobs to help build Illinois' smart grid

Manufacturing, construction, high-tech and service businesses across Illinois plan to ramp up operations to help strengthen and modernize the state's electric grid. Several prominent business owners joined ComEd in calling for Governor Quinn to approve the Illinois Energy Modernization Act (SB 1652), and shared their plans for expansion if SB 1652 becomes law.

The bill, passed by the General Assembly last spring, will usher in $2.6 billion of investment in Illinois to strengthen and modernize Illinois' electric grid, creating thousands of jobs.

"The investment outlined in the bill presents state government leaders with a historic opportunity to grow the economy, create jobs and accelerate the growth of a new economic sector," said Anne Pramaggiore, president and chief operating officer, ComEd. She also pointed out that the bill not only encourages job growth, it also mandates job creation.

"SB1652 has provisions that require the creation of 2,000 real jobs at the peak of construction or we pay a penalty," she said. 

Illinois manufacturing business will increase as utilities begin work to modernize the grid. 

General Cable, a manufacturer and supplier of copper, aluminum and fiber optic wire and cable products will likely need to increase its workforce to meet demand, according to company vice president Patrick Gorman.

"Based on utility estimates, building Illinois' smart grid could require more than 17 million conductor feet of General Cable's medium-voltage distribution cable, primarily produced at our plant in Du Quoin, and we're going to need to bolster our workforce to make that happen," said Gorman. "As General Cable's Du Quoin business grows, so does our use of local products and services — this is good for the local economy and good for the state of Illinois."

General Cable also is a major supplier of cable to the wind and solar markets with transmission solutions that link green power sources to the grid. Its Du Quoin plant manufactures cables which connect wind turbines together in wind farms and collection system cables that accumulate the energy they create.

"Passage of SB 1652 will mark the beginning of Illinois efforts to meet the demands of the 21st century's clean energy economy.  It's our job to make sure our workforce is ready to help move Illinois forward," said Gorman.

INTREN, a Union, Ill. based company that is woman-owned and employs 300 Illinois residents, builds and maintains overhead power lines and installs underground lines, will be looking to bolster its workforce as infrastructure improvements outlined in the bill move forward. 

INTREN owner Loretta Rosenmayer anticipates that to meet increased demand for her company's services, she will need to tap new employees.

"Enactment of this legislation will create a new engine for economic growth in the state, potentially leading companies like INTREN and others that service the utility industry to create hundreds, if not thousands of new manufacturing jobs for the equipment associated with new investments in smart grid technologies," said Rosenmayer.

Meade Electric, which designs, builds and maintains electric and other utility systems, is a century-old, Illinois-based company employing more than 1,300 Illinois residents from 80 different trade unions. Meade expects demand for its services to increase dramatically if SB 1652 becomes law.

Meade Electric and INTREN both anticipate increasing their local workforces, employing IBEW linemen, technicians and other specialists to feed demand for people that will implement the $2.6 billion investment program. 

"The truth is, many linemen and specialists have had to look for out-of-state jobs because the work simply hasn't been here," said Robert Pearson, IBEW business manager, and chairman of the IBEW's international executive council. "If SB 1652 becomes law, we would love to bring Illinois linemen back home to help modernize the grid and update the infrastructure that will support it." 

These companies joined business and labor leaders from the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce; the Chicago Federation of Labor; IBEW Locals 9, 15, 196, and the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce who last week called on Governor Quinn to pass SB 1652, calling it a "major jobs bill" that will jumpstart the economy and serve as a catalyst for Illinois new energy economy. 

"Companies like General Cable, INTREN and Meade really just scratch the surface. Scores of others throughout the state are lined up and ready to go to work to build and service the grid. They understand that SB 1652 represents an unprecedented opportunity to put people back to work while also making sure our power grid is well equipped to serve the 21st century economy.  If we don't act now, we will miss out," said Pramaggiore. 


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