Pipeline workers are a boon to local hotels, restaurants

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Kayla Bunge
Sunday, November 25, 2007
— What usually is a bleak time of year for some local businesses is much brighter as hundreds of union workers pour hundreds of dollars into the local economy each week.

Global Pipeline Partners is building a 321-mile crude oil pipeline from Superior to Delavan. Work began in the spring and is expected to be complete by early next year.

The project employs about 2,450 union workers from across the country. About 470 report to the base camp at the intersection of highways 14, 11 and 89 in Darien Township.

“It’s like a convention that never leaves,” construction manager Jim Murphy said.

The workers are away from home for weeks or months at a time, and they’ve taken up temporary residence in local hotels, motels, rooming houses and apartments.

Super 8 Motel in Delavan is at 60 to 70 percent capacity—something almost unheard of in the fall and winter, manager Harry Lauder said. Of the 45 to 50 rooms rented nightly, 33 are rented weekly. Typically, about 20 rooms are rented nightly, only seven of which are rented weekly.

“That’s a huge thing for us,” Lauder said.

Comfort Suites in Delavan has 12 rooms rented, which is better than normal, general manager Eduardo Canas said.

“We wish we could have more,” he said.

The story is the same at Econo Lodge Inn & Suites in Delavan. Only six rooms are rented out, but without them, the place would be empty, front desk manager Brenda Austin said.

The workers put in long hours along the pipeline route—from about 5:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and sometimes later—so they often eat lunch in the field or at the base camp. But for breakfast and dinner, they frequent local restaurants.

Countryside Restaurant, W9695 Highway 14, is only three miles from the camp and has become the crew’s usual breakfast stop.

“A lot of them are in here in the morning,” owner Laurie Borden said.

She said 15 to 20 workers come in every morning, and she delivers another eight to 10 breakfasts to the camp.

“I’ve had to double my staff because of them,” Borden said. “They warned us. They said there would be about 400 more guys coming, and I said, ‘OK, girls, we’re beefing up the place.’”

The Country Station, W9003 Highway 14, is right across the street from the camp. Owner Cari Alberts said the gas station, convenience store and deli see about 200 workers during the day.

“We’ve gone from one person working in the morning to three,” she said.

Corners Inn, W9002 Highway 11, hasn’t had to change its staffing to accommodate the dozens of workers that come in each day, but owner Amy Nelson said she and her staff are working more hours.

Global Pipeline Partners spokesman Thad Nation said the pipeline project—currently one of the largest construction projects in the state—has been a “tremendous economic boom” to communities along the route.

“It’s estimated that each one of these people spends in the neighborhood of $500 to $800 very week on lodging and food,” he said. “That’s a very significant local impact.”

About the project

-- About 1,500 miles of pipeline will deliver crude oil from the Canadian oil sands near Edmonton, Alberta, to Midwest refineries.

-- The new, larger pipeline will increase the flow of oil by 400,000 barrels a day, bringing the total flow to 1.2 million barrels a day.

-- The first phase of construction from Superior to Delavan is expected to be complete by early next year. The next two phases from Delavan to Patoka, Ill., are expected to be complete in 2009.

-- The project includes a 42-inch crude oil pipeline and a 20-inch diluents line.

Last updated: 9:55 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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