When young people and skilled workers look for areas with good-paying jobs, when families grow, and when retirees look to settle down, they all share a universal interest – finding a community that will continue to grow with them and provide opportunities to be successful and get the most out of life.
As chairman of the Ogle County Board, I am constantly thinking about what opportunities are available for our county residents, and ways to maintain the character that attracted all of us to this area.
We have a tremendous asset in the Byron Generating Station. Nearly half of Illinois’ electricity comes from facilities like Byron, and it is the reason that Illinois ranks No. 1 in the country for carbon-free electricity generation.
Much like the stable source of electricity that it provides to our community, Byron Station also is the largest employer in our county, providing nearly 800 stable, high-paying jobs. This has a tremendous impact on local business profits, government budgets, and the economy throughout our county, and neighboring counties.
In addition to its economic contributions, this nuclear facility works as a partner in our county and the local communities. The plant’s operator, Exelon, provides scholarships for local high school students, sponsors events, and has even provided necessary equipment to the Ogle County Sheriff's Department and Stillman Valley Fire Protection District.
It is difficult to imagine not having Byron Generating Station as a valuable community partner. The closing of this facility would hurt local business revenues and government budgets, cause further job losses, and make it more difficult to attract new families to our local area.
While we would be a very different community without the economic and charitable contributions of this facility, losing such a partner would cost more than jobs and revenues. We would lose friends and families who will be forced to look for employment and a vibrant community elsewhere. These people, whose individual contributions through their work ethic, hobbies, and a dedicated interest in calling this place home, are woven into the fabric of Ogle County.
Businesses, much like people, do not make investments in their community unless they are planning on staying long term. When I completed college, I made that decision to return to my community, and long term, to raise my family in Ogle County.
As a resident committed to staying in this area for a long time, I believe it is imperative to support our neighbors at the Byron Generating Station, and support their legislative efforts to keep this valuable nuclear plant open.
I encourage members of the General Assembly to think about the positive impact the Byron plant has on our community. I urge them to pass a bill that will preserve its continued operation and the partnership it offers to Ogle County.
Note to readers: Kim Gouker is chairman of the Ogle County Board.