Northern Pass Job Fair Draws Crowd in North Country

Dec 14, 2017

More than 100 turned out for a Northern Pass job fair Dec. 13 in Whitefield.
Credit Annie Ropeik / NHPR

  The state won't make a final decision on the Northern Pass project until late February – but Eversource is already recruiting a workforce to build the transmission line if it's approved.

At least 100 residents and business owners from around New England braved snowy roads for a job fair in the White Mountains Wednesday.

Tyler Jenson, with Massachusetts-based Buckingham Manufacturing, has been waiting for Northern Pass to happen for a long time. His company makes the safety harnesses electrical workers wear when they climb utility poles.

At the job fair in Whitefield, he demonstrated how the carabiners and straps keep workers secure. They’re just some of the myriad supplies Northern Pass will require if it’s approved.

The power line would go under and over some rough terrain between Quebec to central New Hampshire. It's expected to cost $1.6 billion and create 2,600 jobs, many of them set aside for New Hampshire-based IBEW members.

Jonathan Mitchell is the union's Concord-based training director. He said he had good luck recruiting apprentice electricians at the preemptive job fair.

"This is not going to [be], ‘Hey, you get three years in with Northern Pass, you're done,’” he said. “Hell no. Hopefully they'll have as good a career as I have."

Critics of the controversial project say any economic benefits will be short term.

Allen Bouthillier disagrees. He owns an excavating company in Lancaster, and said landing a subcontract to sell gravel for Northern Pass would be a big deal.

"This is huge for the North Country,” he said. “North of the Notch, we don't have this type of work. This opportunity comes along just once, and we need it."

Construction of the 192-mile line would take about three years. Bouthillier said that would have lasting effects for, say, a rural motel owner who normally can’t fill all their rooms year-round.

"They'll be at 100 percent capacity for years,” he said. “That would be the chance for them to maybe pay off their mortgage, or maybe do some expansion that would be needed."

Hearings on Northern Pass wrap up next week, with deliberations at the Site Evaluation Committee set for January and February. Eversource hopes to get approval to break ground on Northern Pass in April.