CHESHIRE, Ohio — It’s business as usual at the Gen. James M. Gavin Plant in Cheshire.
Despite news Wednesday that the plant, along with three other electric-generating facilities in Ohio and Indiana, were sold by Columbus, Ohio-based American Electric Power for a reported $2.17 billion to Blackstone and ArcLight Capital Partners LLC, two private equity firms, company officials say nothing will change.
Despite news that there will be no employee layoffs or eliminations, local elected officials are being cautiously optimistic about news of the sale, which is expected to be finalized in the first quarter of 2017.
“We hate to lose AEP,” said Mason County Commissioner Rick Handley. “I hope the new owners are as community-minded as AEP has been. They have been great partners with Mason County. We want our citizens to be able to maintain those jobs.”
Little is known of the new owners. Boston-based ArcLight is an energy-focused private-equity firm founded in 2001 and has invested about $16.8 billion in different ventures since then, according to its website. New York-based Blackstone, according to the Wall Street Journal, is the largest private-equity manager by assets and raised one of the world’s largest energy funds in early 2014. The news organization added that Blackstone “has ramped up spending on oil-and-gas deals in recent months.”
“As of now, AEP has assured us they will be working with employees and community leaders to ensure a smooth transition,” said Tracy Doolittle, president of the Mason County Commission. “As the deal gets closer to being completed, we will be pursuing a contact with Blackstone and ArcLight to begin a relationship as community partners.”
Gallia County (Ohio) Commission President Harold Montgomery echoed his concern for the employees at Gavin.
“Will it have a positive impact? I’m worried for the employees in that it doesn’t cost them their jobs and it doesn’t create any negative issues for them,” he said. “I can’t see spending $2.17 billion just to close something down. Our plants are important to our local economy and also to our local government.”
Montgomery said the Gavin plant is the largest taxpayer in Gallia County and is a major supporter of the county’s school systems, adding that about 70 percent of the revenue from tax dollars go toward education.
“AEP has been a good neighbor in Gallia County,” Montgomery said, “and we would hope that the new owners will also be a good neighbor.”
Meigs County Commissioner Tim Ihle said he didn’t know the specifics of the deal, but like his colleagues in Gallia and Mason counties, is tempering his optimism and hopes nothing will change at the facility.
“What that means for employees, benefits and electric rates, I have no idea,” he said. “I always try to be the optimist. My surface thoughts on it are that AEP is just making a transition. (The Gavin plant) is still viable and someone still sees that. I don’t think we’ll see much change. We probably won’t see any difference.”
The Gavin plant was the largest piece in the four-plant deal. The other facilities are in Lawrenceburg, Ind., and Waterford and Mount Sterling in Ohio. The Gavin plant is the only one of the four that is coal-fired; the others are gas-fired.
The Gavin plant, according to AEP spokeswoman Melissa McHenry, employs about 290 people, most of whom are from Mason, Meigs and Gallia counties. The plant alone has a capacity of 2,665 megawatts. One megawatt can provide for the electricity needs of about 1,000 homes.
All told, about 400 employees across the four facilities are affected by the sale, McHenry said.
Beth Sergent contributed to this story. Reach Michael Johnson at 740-446-2342, ext. 2102, or on Twitter @OhioEditorMike.