Badin, North Carolina
Badin was built beginning in 1912 to house Aluminum smelter workers. The French firm L'Aluminium Franšais planned to build a dam on the Yadkin River to produce hydro-electricity for a new smelter in this rural part of North Carolina. The process of separating Aluminum from ore requires vast amounts of electricity, making cheap sources of power the most important consideration when companies build smelters. The Yadkin River flows through a gap in the Uwharrie mountains near Badin making it an ideal spot for a hydro power project. L'Aluminium Franšais built the initial buildings of Badin in a French style, unusual for the Southeast. Because of WWI L'Aluminium Franšais pulled out of the project before it was completed. In 1915 Alcoa took over the project and completed the dam and smelter in 1917. Badin quickly grew to a population of around 3,000 (I'm unable to verify claims of a peak population of 5,000 in 1926. The population of Badin in 1950 was just over 2,000.). Alcoa built three additional dams on the Yadkin river over the following years, the last one being completed in 1962.
During the second half of the 20th century Alcoa began reducing employment and production at the Badin plant, then in 2002 it suspended production and in 2007 permanently closed the mill. By 2000 the population of Badin had fallen to 1,154. The Alcoa company is currently locked in a bitter legal struggle with the state of North Carolina for control of the Yadkin river and the hydro-electric power projects. The Alcoa company has determined that it is more profitable to sell the electricity produced by the dams on the Yadkin on the open market than to use that electricity to produce aluminum. There are concerns about toxic pollution remaining from the smelting operation and Alcoa's commitment to cleaning the site up. The state also believes that the Yadkin river and the power it generates should be used to create jobs in the state rather than simply generate profits for Alcoa. The smelter building is currently occupied by an electronics recycling firm.
In spite of the struggle over the Yadkin and the closed smelter, the town of Badin seems to be doing very well. Badin and Badin Lake are in a beautiful, scenic location and are close enough to the rapidly growing Charlotte metropolitan area to attract a growing leisure industry. As of 2012 the population of Badin has increased to 1,977.
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