BYRON – The scheduled closing of the Byron Generating Station would certainly hurt Byron and the Byron Community School District #226.
But it would also hurt the economy in all of Ogle County, as well as Lee and Winnebago counties, an economic impact study completed by Northern Illinois University found.
“It’s difficult to understand the depth of the impact,” said Eric Folk, executive director of the Oregon park District, referring to the Byron Station.
She said it will have an impact in not only Byron, but in Oregon and other townships – they will be countywide.
“The reach is much farther than people realize,” she said.
Exelon Generation has announced that it would be closing the Byron Station in September 2021.
The Byron CUSD #226 paid for the economic impact study, and Buster Barton, superintendent of the district, said that about 74 percent of the district’s revenue comes from the Byron Station.
“Right now, our energy is being focused on trying to keep it here,” he said of the station.
And that means showing people the wide-ranging positive economic impacts it makes on the region.
There are the direct impacts. That would mean the loss of the 717 people who work at the station daily. The indirect impacts, like the 891 people who provide services to the station. And there are the induced impacts, which are based off of the spending of the direct and indirect employees at the station. This means the places they go for lunch, or buy goods, or purchase homes.
These are all impacts that will be felt in Ogle County and beyond. In total, the study shows that 2,305 jobs would be affected by the loss of the station. Those jobs could come from a number of businesses which would be impacted by the loss of the station, including doctors, restaurants, stores and financial institutions. The transportation industry would also take a hit in the millions of dollars.
“We want to make sure people are informed of that,” Barton said.
The study shows that the Byron Station’s direct contribution to the regional economy (GDP) is estimated to be more than $288 million. That is 1.6 percent of the total GDP of the region. For the Ogle County, Byron Station’s total contribution to the economy is estimated to be $338 million; 17 percent of the county’s total GDP.
Barton said the Byron Station Response Committee he is a part of has been speaking with area civic organizations and trying to get the word out on how vital the station is to the region.
Folk, too, said that educating the community is vital.
“We are working to really educate our residents, our taxpayers,” she said.
She said the Oregon Park District has been preparing for the eventuality of the station closing, having already trimmed the size of the staff over the years. But with 78 percent of the district’s tax base coming from the Byron Station, she said services would be “significantly cut.”
But by getting the word out on the impacts, and working with elected leaders, both Barton and Folk are optimistic.
State Rep. Tom Demmer is one of those mobilizing forces in Springfield to help save the Byron and Dresden plants. Dresden is scheduled to close in November 2021.
Folk said things are starting to line up for some positive movement in the Spring legislative session. She said school boards, parks and recreation associations and organized labor are all working together to save the stations.
Barton said people who wish to support saving the station can go to Demmer’s website, www.savebyron.com. His committee also has a site, www.saveilnuclearpower.com. The economic impact study can be found at that site.
He also encouraged people to simply put up a yard sign supporting the Byron Station, which can be found on the committee’s site.