Economic Advisory Committee
In October 2016, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved a proposal from Xcel Energy Corporation to decommission two of the three coal fired generating units located at the Becker, MN Sherco County Energy Station (“Sherco”). With the proposed plan of decommissioning Units 2 and 1, in 2023 and 2026, respectively, the overall number of jobs available at the Sherco site will be approximately half. In addition to the reduction in regular employees, a reduction in the number of contractor-based employees will be reduced by about 50%. Using a conservative estimate of each dollar earned turning over three times, the local economic impact of job loss is significant.
During the transition from 2023 to 2026, Xcel Energy will be building a new natural gas-powered unit at Sherco. The new gas facility will retain approximately 10-15 jobs, but still results in a large loss jobs and local tax base. The University of Minnesota Extension Office prepared data that shows for every 100 electric power generation jobs, an additional 227 indirect and induced jobs are created. The loss of 135-150 jobs will have an overwhelming negative impact on the local and regional community.
As part of a strategy to mitigate these impacts, several initiatives have already been developed:
• In 2017, Sherburne County participated in a public process to update a “Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy” (CEDS), along with Benton, Stearns, Wright Counties. With coordination and project management by the Central Minnesota Jobs and Training Center (CMJTC) in Monticello, the completed draft was submitted to the U.S. Economic Development Administration, and once approved will qualify local units of government within the four-county area to seek federal funding for economic or natural disaster relief, as well as potential funds to support transition from coal-based energy economies
• The City of Becker commissioned and accepted an Industrial Rail and Transportation Study to better understand the opportunities for transportation improvements along Highway 10 and within the Industrial Park to best support new tenants, while also enhancing public safety. The report discusses various options and costs involved with each option.
• The City of Becker has also commissioned a Preliminary Engineering Report to further refine the design and costs of phase one of the potential modifications to the road network within the existing Industrial Park/energy complex.
• Sherburne County and the Cities of Becker and Big Lake are acting as the lead sponsors and facilitators of a Regional Rail Park Impact Report for a potential Industrial Rail Park located along the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe (BNSF) rail and Highway 10 in Becker and Big Lake, Minnesota. If feasible, development, expansion and enhancement of rail access could support additional industrial uses (much as metal or paper recycling) which could create and/or retain high paying manufacturing jobs similar to many of those that will be lost.
• In late 2016, the Initiative Foundation, with the Cities of Becker and Big Lake, attended the Coal Reliant Communities Innovation Challenge to assist communities in transitioning away from a coal based economy. Through this training, Shervision – a Thriving Communities Initiative, was developed.
Shervision’s top three goals include:
• Regional Community Vision
• Business Retention and Expansion
• Improved Broadband Infrastructure
The path to not only offset job loss, but also to position Becker and northern Sherburne County to capitalize on their many assets will be a long one, and will almost certainly require substantial consideration of varied costs and benefits, risks and rewards, and must ultimately be guided by public input and a clear vision of the desired future for these communities.
Request for Stakeholder Engagement The host communities, with support from the Initiative Foundation and several other funders are recruiting a community advisory committee to help review and vet preliminary studies, surface concerns or aspirations, and otherwise support healthy consideration of all stakeholder groups that could be impacted by these efforts.
Representatives from key stakeholder groups, including residents, union/displaced workers, utility and rail experts, chamber members, existing businesses, health advocates and more.
To suggest a candidate or place your own name in consideration, please submit a note (or email) of introduction, including a paragraph of your background or connection to one or more of the groups listed above to Marie Pflipsen - firstname.lastname@example.org.
Past Meetings:The Advisory Committee met for the first time on April 25th, 2018. Staff members from the City of Becker, Sherburne County and the Initiative Foundation presented information and started the discussion on the current economic development trends and projections for the City and County. The full PowerPoint is available below - Sherco Impact.
The second meeting took place on June 20th, 2018. The focus of the meeting was to discuss the variety of infrastructure studies and improvements to better leverage the City's assets to create a flourishing business environment. The full PowerPoint is available below - Feasibility Study.