Last week, Big Rivers Electric Corp. announced plans to move its headquarters from Henderson to Owensboro.

The move will have a $100 million-plus impact on the community, local officials said then.

Mayor Tom Watson said Monday that he’s been negotiating with Big Rivers for three years.

It began, he said, when the cooperative approached him about buying Owensboro Municipal Utilities.

That didn’t happen.

But negotiations eventually led to Big Rivers’ decision to build a $10 million corporate headquarters at 700 W. Second St. — just west of the Boardwalk Pipeline Partners headquarters.

The city owns that property.

They bought it from the Owensboro-Daviess County Industrial Foundation in October 2019 for $175,000.

City Manager Nate Pagan said, “We are selling them the property at the PVA assessed value.”

He said the incentive that the city offered Big Rivers is “an upfront cash payment (for the property) and a 50% rebate of general fund occupational taxes for a period of 10 years.”

Angela Hamric Waninger, the city’s director of finance and support services, said with Big Rivers’ payroll of $14 million a year for the 120 employees who will work in the corporate offices, the city will collect $249,200 a year in payroll taxes.

Of that, $203,000 will go into the general fund, she said, and $46,200 will go into the Your Community Vision Fund.

So Big Rivers will get to keep $101,500 each year for 10 years.

The city will receive $26,400 in property taxes each year on the $10 million office building, Waninger said.

Daviess Fiscal Court should get $13,000 in property tax on the building as well.

Jennifer Keach, Big Rivers’ director of communications and community relations, said the building is still in the design stage.

But she said it will be either two or three stories.

“We need at least 50,000 square feet,” Keach said.

The Henderson Gleaner wrote last week that “The headquarters move follows years of litigation involving Big Rivers and Henderson Municipal Power & Light.

“The parties in January severed their lengthy power-generating partnership at an aging, coal-fired facility near the Henderson/Webster County line, which HMP&L owned and Big Rivers operated.

“That led to disputes about how to handle demolition and environmental issues on the property.”

Is that why Big Rivers decided to move to Owensboro?

Bob Berry, president of Big Rivers, said, “The litigation isn’t the primary reason. It may be a contributing factor. But the primary reason is strategic. All things being equal, the litigation wouldn’t have driven the decision.”

He said the main reason for the move is Owensboro’s location.

“This is a strategic place for us,” Berry said last week. “Owensboro is within 32 or 33 miles of each of our three generating plants.”

Asked if he expected many of the 120 employees to move to Owensboro, Berry said that some of those who live west of Henderson may.

But for those in Henderson, he said, “It’s only a 30-mile drive. I’ve been with Big Rivers for 40 years and I’ve always lived in Owensboro. I’ve been making the drive the whole time and it’s not bad. It’s four lanes all the way on the Audubon Parkway.”

Construction is expected to take 18 to 24 months.

Watson said the announcement is the biggest thing for the community since Scott Paper Co. — now Kimberly Clark — announced plans for a $500 million factory near Newman in 1990.

Berry said Big Rivers is also trying to relocate its transmission group to Daviess County.

That would involve another 36 jobs, he said.

Berry said last week that Big Rivers wants to be “an economic engine” for the community.

He said Big Rivers does $4.5 million worth of business each year in Henderson County and plans to do “two to three times that” here.

The cooperative is owned by Jackson Purchase Energy Corporation, headquartered in Paducah; Kenergy Corp., headquartered in Henderson; and Meade County Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation, headquartered in Brandenburg.

Today, the utility provides energy to more than 118,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in portions of 22 western Kentucky counties.

Since May, it has been supplying electricity to OMU.

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

Keith Lawrence 270-691-7301

klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

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