After struggling for several years with a stagnant economy, the future is looking brighter for Paulsboro, New Jersey. Earlier this week, USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Cheryl Cook, Assistant Administrator for the Water and Environmental Program Jacki Ponti, and I attended an event to celebrate a Recovery Act-funded water project that will help to stimulate job creation while also upgrading Paulsboro’s water system.
The diverse borough of Paulsboro houses just over 6,000 residents and faces many of the same challenges of rural towns across the country. In recent years, the decreasing demand for fuel spurred a number of oil refinery layoffs, displacing hundreds of Paulsboro workers and contributing to a steady rate of out-migration.
In addition to the poor economic conditions in Paulsboro, the continuous repair of the public water system, much of which was built in the 1950’s, was becoming unfeasible, so the Borough worked with RD’s Water and Waste Disposal program to obtain financing for the water system improvements.
“We’ve done over $20 billion in investments under the Recovery Act, with over $134 million of that right here in New Jersey,” said Deputy Under Secretary Cook. “This is an investment that will yield dividends many years into the future for the residents of Paulsboro.”
A Recovery Act loan-grant combination of $4.3 million will allow for the construction of two new water supply wells and a new water treatment plant. These upgrades will remove aluminum, iron, manganese, benzene, and radium contaminants from the raw water, so Paulsboro residents will enjoy clean drinking water.
In addition, these water system upgrades will facilitate greater economic development along the Port of Paulsboro. New Jersey’s Governor recently traveled to the Port of Paulsboro to announce an off-shore wind energy generation initiative, which involves the employment of Paulsboro residents in receiving and assembling wind turbines at the Port. This renewable energy initiative has the potential to create thousands of permanent jobs in the area.
This is an exciting time for the borough of Paulsboro, and I am thrilled Rural Development, through Recovery Act funding, can contribute to this great project. The jobs to be created in the construction of the new water system will serve to invigorate the Paulsboro economy now, but the upgraded system will allow for continued economic growth into the future.