600 workers bring local spending boost with Craig Station spring outage
March 27, 2017
Craig — Springtime weather appears to be arriving early to the Yampa Valley, but one spring tradition is right on time for local businesses and hotels: the Craig Station spring outage.
This year's outage kicked off Wednesday and will employ about 600 contract workers — double the usual number — over an eight-week period ending May 17.
"We've got about $29 million worth of parts and pieces that are going into the unit," said Craig Station Plant Manager Rich Thompson. "We have 36 different contractors on site and they have about 600 different employees working for them."
Every year, the coal-fired Craig Station shuts down one of its three units for maintenance and upgrades. The hundreds of contract workers brought to town by the outage fill hotel rooms and boost local restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses.
"In just the last week or so, I've seen a significant increase in revenue from the restaurant and bar combined," said Shannon Moore, assistant general manager and director of sales at the Clarion Inn & Suites. "We're seeing a good 40-percent more spending in the restaurant and bar this year than last year."
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Last year, the outage occurred in the fall instead of the spring, which is less ideal for local hotels.
"The challenge that we run into with a fall outage versus a spring outage is we're already busy in the fall with regular business, with hunting and projects carried over from the summer, like repaving projects," said Tammie Thompson-Booker, director of sales and marketing for Candlewood Suites.
"We in the community enjoy that push, because when we don't see them in the first quarter of the year, it's really hard," she said, noting that spring months are otherwise fairly slow in Craig.
This year, workers are doing routine maintenance on Unit 2 as well as completing installation of the selective catalytic reduction device, an additional emissions control required to meet regional haze standards.
Set forth by the Colorado Visibility and Regional Haze State Implementation Plan approved in 2014, the device removes nitrogen oxide emissions from the flue gas emitted through the stacks.
Craig Station's Thompson estimates the project, which started almost five years ago, will be complete this fall. Testing and modeling are slated to happen this summer.
About 100 of Craig Station's own employees — mostly mechanics, welders and machinists — are also working full-time on the outage in addition to the contractors.
Though Thompson doesn't have precise numbers for how many contract employees are from out of town — many are local contractors with local workers — more than half are visitors.
Craig's hotel occupancy rates are up 13 percent compared to one month ago, according to Thompson-Booker, while Candlewood Suites' occupancy is 33 percent higher than one month ago. Rates are also significantly up over this time last year, she added.