SOUTH HAVEN — When Palisades Nuclear Power Plant closes in 2022, not only will its employees feel the impact, but so will the South Haven community.

That reality was underscored Thursday when the South Haven Area Chamber of Commerce presented the plant and its owner, Entergy Corp., with the Community Investment Award during the chamber’s annual meeting and awards ceremony at HawksHead Links. 

“Palisades Nuclear Power Plant has played an important role in our community since it powered up in the early ‘70s,” said Chamber member Tom Rummel, who presented the award to Palisades officials. “In addition to being a major employer of approximately 600 highly trained nuclear professionals, the plant is also one of the region’s largest taxpayers and charitable contributors through both employee and corporate giving.”

One of Van Buren County’s largest employers, with 600 employees, Palisades contributes approximately $325,000 in charitable contributions annually to the community.

In 2018 alone, the company and its employees purchased a new trailer for the South Haven High School Robotics team, provided scholarships for Covert High School students, contributed $10,000 to Lake Michigan College for scholarships, presented a $70,000 grant to Pilgrim Haven Natural Area to help construct a public access; and sponsored the chamber’s Economic Summit, Community Expo, Light up the Lake fireworks, National Blueberry Festival, Bobby Walker Basketball Tournament, Senior and Veterans Expo and purchased backpacks and school supplies for the Van Buren Intermediate School District. Palisades also was a major donor to Van Buren County United Way.

In accepting the award, Palisades’ general manager of plant operations Darrell Corbin said, “we are committed to plant safety above all else.” He noted the plant would indeed be closing in three years, but went on to say, “In spite of that, we want to let you know of our continued commitment to the community.”

Entergy’s decision to close Palisades came about in 2016 due to changes in the market price of energy and electricity, driven mainly by the natural gas revolution, that have made it unprofitable for merchant nuclear plants like the Palisades plant to continue operations.

The chamber also honored six other businesses and community leaders at the annual awards ceremony. The recipients are:

• Non-Profit Organization of the Year – South Haven Steelheaders for their investment of time and financial resources in protecting the Great Lakes fisheries and their financial contributions to the South Haven community.

• Community Leadership Award – South Haven Police Chief Natalie Thompson for not only effectively overseeing a department of 19 police officers and sergeants, but also being actively involved in the community.

• Innovative Business of the Year Award – Calico Cleaning. Since opening 10 years ago, owner Kathy Merchant expanded her house cleaning service company from two employees to 65 and has added a second location in Glenn.

• Community Spirit Award – Honor Credit Union. In addition to opening a new branch office in South Haven in 2018, Honor’s employees continue to be actively involved in the community by volunteering their time at a variety of events and providing financial support to various non-profits.

• Business Leader of the Year – Glenn Cowles, owner of the UPS Store in South Haven. Cowles has successfully run his South Haven store since 2004, along with another one in Paw Paw. He also donates his time and resources to a number of nonprofits, and is a member of the chamber’s Board of Directors, the South Haven Kiwanis Club Board of Directors and the Southwest Michigan United Way’s Board of Directors.

• Lifetime Achievement Award – Deb Davidson. As director of South Haven’s Downtown Development Authority, Davidson has helped to obtain more than $10 million in grant funding over the past 19 years for improvements to the city, including the North and South Beach upgrades, reconstruction of Williams and Phoenix streets, and now, the reconstruction of Center Street.