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Officials see promise in training site

Nuclear reactor facility Plant Vogtle, near Waynesboro, has a bright future, and officials in Thomson and McDuffie County want to become part of it.

Local officials have expressed an interest in starting a training center in Thomson that would allow electricians and welders to gain classroom certification for working on the future construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle, according to Mike Carrington, the director of the McDuffie County Industrial Development Authority.

The idea was briefly discussed by several local officials last week, The McDuffie Mirror has learned. The meeting was the brainchild of Joyce Blevins, former chairwoman of the McDuffie County Board of Commissioners. Also in attendance were Thomson Mayor Kenneth Usry, McDuffie County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton, McDuffie County School Superintendent Jim LeBrun and others.

"We want to train people right here in Thomson and McDuffie County for some of the new, high-tech, good-paying jobs," Mr. Carrington said. "This idea isn't mine. Joyce Blevins, who operates One Stop in Thomson, is the brainchild of this whole concept. Everybody at that meeting highly supported her idea."

Mr. Carrington said that kind of cooperation has existed between Thomson and McDuffie County officials for years. Such cooperation is again needed to launch the training center concept.

"And you can't forget about state officials," Mr. Carrington said. "We're going to need their help and support, too, to make this happen. Right now, we're just in the early talking stages."

Already, Mrs. Blevins has gone to Atlanta to discuss the idea with Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond, Mr. Carrington said.

"She really believes in this project, wholeheartedly," he added. "She's certainly got my support and the support of several others around here, too."

In March, members of the Georgia Public Service Commission voted 4-1 to allow Georgia Power to build two additional nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle. The $14 billion expansion project is set to begin construction in 2011 and is targeted for completion in 2017.

The project would offer a giant economic boost to various parts of the area, officials say.

"We're just in the brainstorming mode right now," Mr. Carrington said in regard to setting up a training facility.

"We're trying to come up with a concerted effort to connect different agencies and get them on board with us. This is just another way that we're planning for the future and hoping to become a certified Work Ready Community real soon," Mr. Carrington said.

Web posted on Thursday, September 10, 2009

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