Bitcoin could rescue Rockdale’s future

Chinese company to invest $500 million, hire 400

In a press statement issued late Monday afternoon, the Rockdale Municipal Development District (MDD) confirmed that the Chinese bitcoin mining company, Bitmain Technologies, will open a new data center at the site of the mothballed Alcoa aluminum smelter.

“A deal like Bitmain is a game changer for Milam County,” said Richard E. Williams, president of the Milam County Industrial Development Corporation (MCIDC). “These types of projects tend to group together, and it is likely that once a certain geography, site, and attributes of the site attract a big-name user, others will follow.”

According to the press release, Bitmain pledged to invest $465 million to retro-fit the buildings and machinery at the old smelter, and create up to 400 new jobs. The new jobs will be full-time, fully benefited and will include positions in engineering and management, as well as opportunities for data center technicians.

“While a ‘clean’ industry, it will diversify the labor supply, significantly increase exposure to technology, increase by half the tax base of Milam County and more than double the tax base of Rockdale ISD,” said Williams. “The new jobs, in addition to an estimated 137 spin-off jobs, could make a major dent in Milam County’s relatively high unemployment rate. These types of projects typically create a significant amount of high-end construction employment for an initial period, and once built, they become a key component of the company’s overall operating environment and can create a long-term investment for Milam County.”

The Milam County Industrial Development Corporation (MCIDC) and the Milam County Commissioners Court approved an economic development incentive that includes a tax abatement phased in over 10 years.

The Alcoa smelter, along with several coal-fired electric power plants and an active lignite mine, supported Milam County’s economy for decades. Alcoa began pulling back from the Rockdale site in the late 1990s and, by 2008, had largely moved out of Milam County. The plant was shuttered in 2017. The power plant, owned by Luminant, was shut down last year.

The Rockdale MDD, Cameron Industrial Foundation and Workforce Solutions of Central Texas, along with several other local entities are working with Bitmain Technologies to develop training opportunities for future employees.

The goal is to offer training to adults interested in developing or refining new skills as well as incorporating needed technology skills training in area schools.

“This is a great day for all the citizens of Milam County,” said Dr. John Weed III, president of the Rockdale MDD. “The MDD will continue to work towards the additional growth of jobs and investment in the Rockdale area. I appreciate the help and support from the MDD Board of Directors, Alcoa Inc. and county government.”

For an updated list of job openings at the new Rockdale, Texas facility, please visit https://www.bitmain.com/jobs.

Bitmain, founded in 2013 and headquartered in Bejing, is a global blockchain and semiconductor company that designs and manufactures high-performance hardware, software and services.

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