Federal stimulus dollars spent in the five-county region surrounding Savannah River Site created or saved 4,600 jobs and helped mitigate the impact of the worst recession in recent history, according to a new study unveiled Tuesday.
Economists at O’Connell Center for Executive Development at the University of South Carolina Aiken partnered with Augusta State University and Claflin University to produce an analysis of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act spending and its impact on Aiken, Barnwell and Allendale counties in South Carolina and Richmond and Columbia counties in Georgia.
“Every dollar of the Recovery Act invested in this area funded 86 cents of additional economic activity in the region, and each job funded by the SRS Recovery Act program created an additional 0.90 jobs in the local community,” the study found.
The $135,000 study, funded with stimulus dollars, was commissioned by Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, the site’s primary contractor; and Savannah River Remediation, the site’s liquid waste contractor.
The two companies were allocated $1.4 billion and $200 million, respectively, in recovery money, to accelerate environmental cleanup projects at the site.
The authors of the 86-page study evaluated spending from April 2009 to October 2010 and found average household income increased by almost $500 per year, while the number of people spending their new paycheck within their own communities increased by 90 percent – from 2,400 to 4,600.
During the study period, the two companies spent about $819 million of the site’s total allocation of $1.6 billion in Recovery Act funds. Out of that amount, $282 million was spent in local communities.
Much of the work financed by the extra money was already in the planning stage, but completing those cleanup efforts earlier has helped reduce the site’s footprint by 122 square miles through closing, cleaning up or consolidating facilities into smaller areas.
The eventual goal is to reduce the footprint by 75 percent, or 233 square miles.
Major projects that received stimulus funding included decommissioning two defunct reactors, packing and shipping of nuclear waste, demolishing an old cooling tower and removing obsolete buildings and facilities.
Employment through the program peaked last April, when Savannah River Nuclear Solutions had about 2,200 stimulus workers on the site.