By JoAnn Shum
Area businesses are welcoming the economic effect of the wind farm construction under way in Marshall County.
“Overall the town seems busier,” Chad Kramer of Kramer Oil Co. said. “It has been very positive for Marysville. We are happy to have them here.”
It’s great seeing all the trucks going down the highway, carrying parts of the wind turbines, Kramer said.
“The cranes at the construction site are fun to watch,” he added.
The construction project southeast of Beattie has helped boost sales at a time when the local economy normally slows.
Area motels, restaurants, gift shops, grocery stores, recreational facilities and the laundry are seeing increased business since work began and since pilot car drivers from multiple states arrived in town with large trucks carrying wind turbine components. At about any given time of the day lately, pilot cars are parked in front of local businesses.
Area towns are also seeing the benefits from the wind tower construction.
Russell Ogg, a clerk at Harrington Corner Stop in Frankfort, said 20 to 30 wind turbine employees stop on their way to and from the job site each day and come back for lunch.
Kramer said that usually the drivers and workers start coming in around 6 a.m. for snacks and supplies.
“For us it started in August with gas sales and was busy until December, when they slowed down a bit,” Kramer said. “Once the second week in January hit, they have been pretty consistent.
“We have had some strong winds lately, and that has slowed them down a little bit. We have an abundance of wind here.”
Joe Crome of Crome’s Market, Marysville, said sales at the store’s hot deli have increased by more than 20 percent.
“It is great seeing all the trucks and pilot cars in town,” he said.
Lori Parks of the Wagon Wheel said having the crews in town “has been wonderful.”
“They are very nice people,” she said. “I am very thankful for them, and I think it has been very beneficial for the community.”
Parks is finding they have some favorite foods.
“They love our carrot cake,” she said. “One of the drivers wanted a whole carrot cake to take along, and some eat it for breakfast. I can hardly keep up baking carrot cakes.
“Many of them came in to hear the band recently and had a good time. Another band is scheduled for this weekend so I hope they come in again.”
A lot of the truck drivers come in for breakfast, dinner and supper, Parks said.
“It is good for everybody in the community. It’s the best January and February we have had for a long time.”
Penny’s Diner, which is open 24 hours a day, has been busy round the clock.
“We are busy 24 hours a day,” said Jason Towne, a cook at Penny’s Diner. “The truck drivers and workers are in and out all times of the day. They order everything on the menu.”
Workers looking for entertainment have been bowling and going to the movies and the library.
“Workers are at Landoll Lanes daily eating meals and snacks, bowling and spending the evening watching TV and visiting,” said Cassie Lee, assistant manager of Landoll Lanes. “Some of them come in every night. They all eat a little bit of everything on the menu.”
Alex Shultz of Astro 3 Theatre has seen some of the workers at the theater.
“I think they are exploring the town and trying to figure out some activities in their spare time,” he said. “They were really surprised we showed the Super Bowl on the big screen.”
Extended breakfast hours
Mandy Cook of the Marysville Public Library said some of the workers have stopped in.
“They are interested in the free WiFi, reading local and state newspapers, magazines and books,” she said. “We encourage their visits to the library and offer library cards to them while they are here.”
The Heritage Inn extended its breakfast times.
“We extended our breakfast serving times in the mornings,” said Ricci Beikman of the Heritage Inn. “It’s a busy place, and we continually restock the breakfast menu until 10:30 a.m. We understand that people go to work early or are ready to get on their way, so we set it up early for them. They go through it fast, so we just keep bringing out food so we don’t run out and they don’t get delayed.”
Beikman said three-fourths of motel guests have been pilot car drivers and truckers.
“We have been operating at full occupancy for the past two weeks,” she said. “It’s been wonderful. It’s been a busy winter so far. January is usually slow, but this year has been great.
“Recent muddy roads and high winds delayed their work, so for about a week they were here waiting out the weather.”
The food business in Marysville has definitely been impacted, she said.
“We are operating at full staff, everybody is working and keeping busy,” she said. “The (wind farm) workers spend a lot of time on the road and away from home. They are very nice and helpful and have good friendships.”
One Sunday evening, they gathered for homemade chili in the lobby of the motel and invited everyone at the motel to join in for supper, said Wayne Kruse, desk clerk.
Laura Ground, front desk representative at nearby Oak Tree Inn, said the motel has been “crazy busy.”
“They started coming in two weeks ago, and we have been staying quite full,” she said.
It’s the same story at the Thunderbird Motel on Marysville’s west side.
“We have been full almost every night with wind towers construction personnel including long-term people and pilot drivers,” said Jessie Height, front desk clerk at the Thunderbird. “We have been way busier than normal.”
Smita Patel of the Marysville Surf Motel said business is up, which is unusual for winter.
“It has been busy with Union Pacific, KDOT, wind tower people, pilot car divers for the wind turbines and people here for training at Landoll,” Patel said. “The breakfast room is a very busy place in the morning as everyone is hurrying to get on their way to work. Wintertime is not usually busy for us, but this year is good for us.”