Power Line Project to Add Thousands of Jobs in MN

The "CapX2020" project is also expected to provide a significant boost to the regional economy through wages, tax revenue, and sales over the next six years, according to a just-released economic impact study.

A high-voltage transmission line network being built across Minnesota and the region is expected to generate thousands of jobs within the six-year time span during which construction will take place.

Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy, Inc., Maple Grove-based Great River Energy, and nine other utilities within the region are working on the “CapX2020” project, which will add more than 700 miles of new transmission infrastructure across four states-Minnesota, the Dakotas, and Wisconsin.

According to an economic impact study conducted by the University of Minnesota's Duluth's business school and released Wednesday, the project is expected to create about 7,800 jobs within those four states at peak construction in 2013. The study predicts the following job impacts-in both the building and service sectors-during each year of construction:

2010: 571
2011: 2,257
2012: 4,580
2013: 7,802
2014: 5,907
2015: 2,425

The $2 billion project is the largest upgrade to the region's electric transmission infrastructure that's taken place within the past 30 years. Although it will greatly enhance the power grid, which utilities argue is necessary, opponents say that the expansion isn't needed and point out that ratepayers will bear the cost of the project in the form of utility bill hikes.

According to the economic impact study, which includes all four states where the project is taking place, CapX2020 will provide more than $1.6 billion in wages, rents, and profits from construction-related payroll spending. Additionally, it will generate more than $149 million in tax revenue and $3.4 billion in sales from construction-related activity. The study also found that each dollar spent on the project will return $1.93 to the region's economy.

“The CapX2020 projects will provide significant benefits to Minnesota and regional electric customers, while also providing a large boost in employment,” Priti Patel, Xcel Energy's co-executive director of CapX2020, said in a statement.

Several companies within the region will provide materials for the projects. Elk River-based AME Red-E-Mix, Inc., for example, will supply about 16,000 cubic yards of concrete and enlist about 15 of its employees to work on the first phase of the project-which involves constructing a 345-kilovolt transmission line between Monticello and St. Cloud. Officials recently broke ground on that first leg of the transmission line expansion.

“The CapX2020 Monticello-St. Cloud project will save us from closing a facility for the winter and laying off 10 to 15 full-time employees,” AME Red-E-Mix President Steve Linegar said in a statement. “It's a valuable project for our company and employees and comes at just the right time.”