New Ala. RV Parks to House Workers
Several investors have opened 20 or more new recreational vehicle parks for the thousands of construction workers expected to build the ThyssenKrupp steel mill in Calvert, Ala.
The Press-Register, Mobile, reported that entrepreneurs are rushing to open the parks, betting that construction workers will tow their homes behind them instead of renting motel rooms, apartments or houses. Though ThyssenKrupp's contractors now have only a few hundred people on site, workers have begun to trickle into some campgrounds, like Webb's Bates Creek RV Park in Malcolm, three miles north of the plant and 20 miles north of Mobile.
The largest parks so far can take dozens, but some have permits for as many as 160 trailers.
ThyssenKrupp, based in Dusseldorf, Germany, has said it expects to employ a total of 29,000 construction workers as it builds the $3.7 billion plant, set to open in 2010. Marcus Boening, the chief financial officer for the plant's carbon steel division, told industrial suppliers last week that as many as 10,000 workers could be present at one time.
Many construction workers who labor on mammoth projects stay in travel trailers instead of rented quarters to save money, said Reid, who has built 20 RV spaces on 13 acres next to his house in McIntosh.
"I've been on construction projects; I know how it is," said Kirk Reid, one of the investors in the parks. "When you live out of a motel, you wind up leaving all your money in the town that you're in."
Linda Profaizer, president of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), said it's normal for big projects to fill parks. But she said it's unusual for investors to build 20 new facilities.
"Good grief, that's a lot of parks," Profaizer said.
Washington County, where land has been cheap and development regulations are few, is the center of activity so far. The Washington County Health Department has approved septic systems for 13 parks so far. Six parks have been permitted in Clarke County. Mobile County health officials said they were aware of only one small campground being built in Bucks.
Other campgrounds already exist, such as the I-65 RV Campground near the interchange of Interstate 65 and U.S. 43 in Creola. The Mobile County Commission, the cities of Jackson and Citronelle, and the St. Stephens Historical Commission also run campgrounds relatively close to Calvert.
Andy Webb estimated that he's spent $4,000 a space, or more than $140,000 total, to clear the land, then build gravel roads, pads, a septic system and electrical hookups.
By comparison, Profaizer said costs typically range from $10,000 to $29,000 per RV space nationwide.
Webb is charging $450 a month for a space, which means a slot occupied for nine months should pay for itself. He had three tenants last week, all working for a pile-driving company seeking ThyssenKrupp work.
Webb said he plans more spaces, plus showers and a coin laundry, and possibly a store to serve not only his property, but other workers.