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Westinghouse to hire 1,000

| Thursday, Dec. 7, 2006

Westinghouse Electric Co.'s decision to hire and base at least 1,000 nuclear engineers in Western Pennsylvania will light up the region's economy, economists said Wednesday.

"There are very few investment or location decisions each year in the U.S. of this magnitude," said Donald Smith, vice president of economic development for Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

"These jobs will have a tremendous economic impact. They are high-paying jobs that will attract highly skilled talent into this region," he said.

The Monroeville company's board met Monday night and narrowed its nine-month-long search to Monroeville or Cranberry. The company will select one in about a month.

Westinghouse expects to garner a healthy share of contracts for nuclear plant construction in the United States and overseas.

In the past year, four U.S. electric utilities in the Southeast have selected Westinghouse nuclear reactor technology for power plants they plan to build. In addition, Westinghouse is a leading candidate to win $8 billion in contracts related to four nuclear plants in China.

About 3,000 of the company's more than 9,000 workers are based in this area, including about 1,800 in Monroeville and 700 at the Waltz Mill plant in Madison, Westmoreland County.

Smith estimates that for each of the new Westinghouse jobs, three other local jobs would be created -- part of what economists call "the multiplier effect."

"And for every dollar of payroll added, three dollars would get spent in the region, as these Westinghouse people buy homes, and purchase goods and services," said Smith.

The average Westinghouse nuclear engineering job here will pay about $80,000. The corporation intends to hire between 1,000 and 2,000 of them in the next eight to 10 years, depending on the rate of growth in the nuclear power market.

"That's as many technology jobs as we've created in an average year in the past five years," said Smith.

"This may be perceived as a turf battle (with Cranberry), but from our standpoint, Westinghouse already calls Monroeville home," said Chad Amond, president of the Monroeville Area Chamber of Commerce.

"We'd hate to see Westinghouse move only about an hour away to the North Hills," said Amond. "It would draw employment from Monroeville and the eastern suburbs."

The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that US. energy demand in the next 25 years will jump 45 percent. That equals 300,000 megawatts of power, or three times the amount of nuclear power generating capacity currently.

Nuclear power plants represent about 19 percent of the nation's generating capacity, according to the energy agency. That percentage is only three points higher than nuclear's share 20 years ago.

"With that kind of growth in demand, and assuming nuclear's share remains constant, you're talking about another 50 nuclear power plants," said Steve Kerekes, spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute in Washington.

"And there's no reason Westinghouse shouldn't get a good share of that," said Kerekes. "A number of companies are looking at Westinghouse's AP1000 (reactor) as their design of choice."

Westinghouse's AP1000 design is an advanced, 1,100-megawatt nuclear generator that is simpler and more efficient than conventional nuclear reactors. One megawatt of power generation, or 1,000 kilowatts, is enough to power about 800 homes.

The expansion comes on the heels of Westinghouse's ownership change to Toshiba Corp. The Japanese conglomerate acquired the company from British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. on Oct. 16 for $5.4 billion.

The selection by Westinghouse marks a victory over Charlotte, N.C., which had been competing for the facility.

Kati Hynes, economic development vice president of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce said The Staubach Co., a commercial real estate firm doing the site selection work for Westinghouse, told her about a week ago that Western Pennsylvania had been chosen over Charlotte. Staubach officials could not be reached yesterday.

"Clearly, Westinghouse is making a positive statement about Pittsburgh by choosing it over North Carolina," said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist of PNC Financial Services Group. "It shows this is a good place to do business and has a good talent pool for these types of highly skilled engineering jobs."

"They also are going to build or expand a facility, so you've got the construction and other types of related jobs," said Hoffman.

Whichever Western Pennsylvania site Westinghouse selects for the complex, it will be about 700,000 square feet of office space, said Gilbert.

The Cranberry site is at Cranberry Woods Office Park, a 327-acre site in Butler County, said Michele Hansarick, spokeswoman for state Sen. Jane Orie, whose district includes the location.

The site is convenient to the intersection of Interstate highways 76 and 79, and Routes 19 and 228. It is about 30 miles from Pittsburgh International Airport.

The Monroeville site is along Northern Pike and adjacent to Westinghouse's headquarters. The company controls about 138 acres at the location, which is about 32 miles from the airport.

"This is good news for Western Pennsylvania, and we want to make it better for Monroeville," said state Sen. Sean Logan, whose district includes Westinghouse's headquarters.

Although Monroeville officials have discussed a potential expansion there with Westinghouse representatives, no formal plans have been presented, said Joel Palaschak, the community's director of communications.

"What we need is a facility that can accommodate our growth, is large enough to expand and has sufficient parking. When you hire 1,000 to 2,000 people, you need sufficient space for parking," said Gilbert.

"We also needed to be near a major airport, and either Pittsburgh-area facility would be close enough to the airport," said Gilbert, whose co-workers frequently fly to Westinghouse offices and job sites around the world.

Even before deciding to locate a nuclear-engineering campus last March, Westinghouse had expected to hire about 2,500 workers over the next five years, with more than 800 of them based in Western Pennsylvania.

The company hired 800 people last year, including almost 300 locally, and is on track to hire about 900 people this year, said Gilbert.

Westinghouse Electric CEO Steve Tritch was traveling and could not be reached yesterday. But he is known to be an ardent supporter of Western Pennsylvania and received his MBA degree and bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh.

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