As I discussed last week, a start-up company called GreenUSA is attempting to build a recycling center in my former home of Lee County, Virginia that is projected to bring as many as two hundred and fifty new jobs to Lee County’s struggling economy. Concerns have been raised by a small yet vocal group of concerned citizens, but according to a Lee County IDA employee with whom I spoke via e-mail, the Lee County IDA has been receiving phone calls in support of the project by a margin of six-to-one. The downside is that getting people motivated enough to come out to town-halls in support of the project has been difficult, and most of those citizens who show up at the meetings do no support the project. After speaking with one of the members of the small opposition movement, again via-email, I now have a better understanding of their concerns. For one thing GreenUSA is a start-up company, and concerns have been raised about the company’s financials. If GreenUSA defaults on their loans, Lee County could be potentially saddled with debt and an incomplete construction project that could be a potential eyesore alongside Highway 58, which runs to the Cumberland Gap National Forest and includes such tourist attractions as the White Rocks Recreational Area and Wilderness Road State Park.
Furthermore, there is a small wetlands in the middle of the industrial site, and some feel that the construction and operations of a recycling center could put wildlife in danger and lead to potential groundwater contamination if not properly handled. The Lee IDA representative assured me that everything that could be done was being done to avoid environmental contamination and catastrophe.
The concerned citizens group, whose website can be viewed here: (http://www.stopgreenusarecycling.com/index.html), also claims that they have attempted to ask questions that have not been answered to their satisfaction by GreenUSA or the Lee County Industrial Development Authority. An open letter with these questions can be found here: http://www.stopgreenusarecycling.com/letter-to-ida.html. The representative from the opposition group that I spoke to said that they would be delighted to welcome GreenUSA to Lee County if they could only get their questions concerning the environmental impact and GreenUSA’s financials answered.
Those concerns withstanding, I sincerely hope that the Lee IDA, Green USA, and the opposition group can work together to make this project a reality. The Lee IDA and Green USA need to take more steps to answer the questions and ease the concerns of the opposition, but at the same time I would hate to see political in-fighting lead to a potential major economic loss to an area of the region that has already been dealt one economic blow too many.
As of the time of this post, the Lee IDA has gone ahead with the sale of the lands to GreenUSA. I’m hoping that this is the right decision, and that all the parties involved can work together to make this project an environmental, as well as economic, success.