The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

April 8, 2009

Charlotte native responds to Alcoa issue

Tuesday, April 7, 2009 — There has been a great deal of concern in the press about the issues inherent in a governmental response to economic issues, especially in the area of operation of companies, etc.

I would like to express my concerns about an issue occurring in North Carolina that is truly a slippery slope into socialism.

When I pick up my newspaper in the morning, I have begun to have moments of déjà vu about a very difficult experience I had in Venezuela.

I would like to share my concerns about commonalities between my experience and the current efforts of the North Carolina government to assume ownership of the Alcoa’s Yadkin projects.

I have spent over 20 years in South America working on hydroelectric dams.

I was working on the Guri Dam in the eastern region of Venezuela during the time Hugo Chavez was undertaking the acquisition of the country’s private industry.

It started very small just like the forced acquisition of Alcoa’s Yadkin projects and ended up with a country that is now state run and has evolved from a healthy democracy to an almost certain dictatorship.

The oil fields in Lake Maracaibo are no longer as profitable, well maintained or environmentally safe; the dams operate without proper repairs; and the world class highway system from Caracas to Port Adoz is no longer a gem for transportation.

I read the newspapers at that time and listened to the speeches.

Chavez was using terms such as “this would be best for the citizens,” these companies are “sending profits overseas,” and so forth.

These exact phrases have been used in statements made by representatives of the Governors office and local politicians.

Before the Governor and Stanly County Commissioners lead the citizens of North Carolina down this path, they need to explain the numbers and the real economic impact.

The four dams under question and currently owned by Alcoa on the Yadkin system produce approximately 234 megawatts, a small output and the cost of annual maintenance on these older facilities makes the profit less than $15 million a year.

North Carolina’s acquisition costs would be approximately $500 million with accumulating interest costs.

An additional $240 million would be required to upgrade the facilities, several of which are almost 100 years old now. I don’t see the short or long term benefits to this acquisition in these calculations.

Our children will not live to see the benefit.

I recommend an alternative solution to the issue. Fund a private/public partnership with Alcoa and modernize the Badin manufacturing plant.

The result would be increased jobs and higher revenues.

Then you would be promoting the best of what is good about a capitalistic democratic nation.

Richard L. Glenn

President of Glenn Underwater Services, Inc.