Areva to double its work force

BETHESDA, MARYLAND - A division of French nuclear company Areva S.A. is in the preliminary stages of a search for office space to handle an expansion here.

The company expects to nearly double its 545-employee local work force over the next three years.

Bethesda, Md.-based Areva Inc. focuses on nuclear services, including engineering, maintenance and refueling. The company also designs next-generation nuclear plants. It recently signed a joint-venture agreement with Duke Energy Corp.

“As our business grows, we are looking at what our needs may be,” says Areva spokeswoman Denise Woernle.

Areva is the most recent energy company to announce plans to expand in the region. In the past year, energy firms have added at least 1,000 jobs tied to DukeÂ’s $19 billion building boom. That includes Westinghouse Electric Co., The Shaw Group Inc., URS Corp. and local solar-energy startup Sencera.

“That is clearly a sector that we have targeted as a growth opportunity for us,” says Tom Flynn, the city’s economic-development director. “We’re looking to build that industry cluster here.”

Areva is now based in 180,000 square feet in Meridian Corporate Center in the University area.

The company plans to hire as many as 250 people across the country each year through 2012, Woernle says. Nearly half of those jobs are expected to be in Charlotte. An entry-level engineer has a salary of about $60,000 per year, Woernle says.

She says itÂ’s too early to know if the company will look for multitenant or build-to-suit space. She also isnÂ’t sure where Areva will look in Charlotte.

Rob Hinton, managing director of Jones Lang LaSalle, is representing Areva in its search for space. He declines to comment on the companyÂ’s plans.

Woernle says the company hasnÂ’t decided if it will seek state, county or city incentives in its expansion. Flynn says Areva may be eligible for incentives, but the firm hasnÂ’t approached him yet. The cityÂ’s incentives program considers a mix of investment, jobs and average salaries.

In 2002, Paris-based Areva, formerly called Framatome ANP, bought Duke Engineering & Services for $84 million. Two years later, Areva received $350,000 in incentives from the state to invest $4 million in its Charlotte operations and add 100 jobs. That year, the company moved to Meridian Corporate Center from uptown.

In September, Areva formed a joint venture with Duke to build biopower plants for U.S. electricity customers. The partners expect to build up to 12 plants by 2014, according to a Duke filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Over the next decade, Duke plans to spend $19 billion on new facilities, including a proposed nuclear plant near Gaffney, S.C., and a $1.8 billion coal plant at its Cliffside complex on the border of Cleveland and Rutherford counties.

In March, URS Corp., an international engineering and construction management firm that works with Duke, opened a nuclear center in northern Lancaster County that will bring 400 jobs to the area over the next several years. URS spent $6.5 million to set up in the former HSBC building on U.S. Highway 521 in Indian Land.

Last year, The Shaw Group invested $35 million to move 556 jobs to uptown. Shaw is the principal contractor for DukeÂ’s Cliffside plant.

Other energy companies expanding here include Westinghouse Electric Co., which plans to open an office in February. Sencera is raising money to build a plant here.


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