Response agencies prepare for life after USEC, congressional leaders continue fight over plant's future

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Reporter - Jason Hibbs
Photojournalist - Justin Jones
Reporter - Robert Bradfield
Photojournalist - David Dycus
Web Editor - Mason Stevenson

PADUCAH, Ky. - "A mass dislocation." That's how the people whose job it is to help the unemployed describe the upcoming shutdown of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

Thursday, some of the people who will deal firsthand with the dislocated workers discussed how to handle so many people who are out of a job.

"They all have some level of support, whether it's staff assistance, monetary assistance, training assistance," Executive Director of the West Kentucky Workforce Investment Board, Sheila Clark, said.

Clark called the meeting. She said the group has to be on the same page, before they can help anyone.

"We're just trying to look at ways we can offer it to them, provide it to them in the most consumable matter," Clark said.

While many will go back to school, she says others will try their own business venture. That's why Mark Johnson in the state's Office for Entrepreneurship came to town.

"There's a lot of skills, a lot of talent in those 11 hundred workers, so I certainly would like to see some new business opportunities come about as a result," Johnson said.

The group knows they have a tough job ahead of them, and just want to help a dislocated workforce get back on their feet.

There are state resources available for displaced entrepreneurs. State Representative Gerald Watkins said he's working with the state to try and get some grant money specifically for USEC workers who want to start their own companies.

He'd like to get his hands on a few million dollars, but at this point he'd take anything.

Sheila Clark says, at first, her organization won't directly reach out to the workers. Instead they'll give material to USEC, who then pass the info along to their employees.

Meanwhile, Kentucky Representative Ed Whitfield says millions of dollars will go toward cleanup costs at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

He secured that money in the Energy and Water Federal Spending Bill for fiscal year 2014.

This latest announcement comes on the heels of a meeting Congressman Whitfield had in Washington, D.C. Wednesday with a delegation of Paducah and McCracken County leaders.

Even though the meetings are over, it doesn't mean the fight is over.  In fact, leaders say its just the beginning.

"Our number one objective, and when I say our I mean the community, mine, the senators, Paul and McConnell, is to have another company into Paducah and build a facility there and reprocess that material," Congressman Ed Whitfield said.
 
That's been the hope for our local leaders for months.

McCracken County Judge Executive Van Newberry says the mission has and will always be to find continued work at the site.
 
"Paducah deserves that.  They have been loyal and good soldiers in the fight the last 60 years especially during the Cold War," Newberry said.


Whitfield said aside from three recent meetings with the Department of Energy, there are none scheduled in the near future.

But he adds, if there is continued pressure from our local and congressional leaders, the DOE could be forced to make a decision sooner, rather than later.

"I don't think the Department of Energy has planned very well because here we are at the end and it's not certain where we go from here," Whitfield said.

Mayor Kaler says she isn't ruling out more trip to washington.  Once she gets back to paducah, she plan to get the community more involved in this process. A she put it, she wants to be loud enough so the doe here can hear the noise all the way from paducah. 

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