Rockdale: The Small Texas Town That’s Turning To Bitmining
Milam County lost 30 percent of its tax revenue as Alcoa shut down its Rockdale plant. Now, Chinese cryptocurrency company, Bitmain, plans to create 400 new jobs there.
Rockdale, Texas, was chosen as the site for what some describe as the biggest bitcoin mine in the country. A Chinese company plans on bringing 400 jobs there and investing $500 million in the mine, which is where rows of computer processors solve complex computations and are awarded digital currency. This comes after a series of booms and busts for this town of 5,600 people.
Last year, the power plant that had been limping along finally closed. Between the closing of the smelter and the plant, 1,700 jobs disappeared; the largest employers in Milam County were now closed, and it lost 30 percent of its tax revenue.
“It made a hit on Rockdale; it hit us hard,” Charles Miles says. “You lose people, you lose income, you lose tax base – you lose a lot.”
Miles owns Miles Styles in downtown Rockdale, a barbershop surrounded by more than a few empty storefronts displaying “for rent” signs — something Miles says has only happened since Alcoa left.
“That’s just in the past couple years since Alcoa shut down,” Miles says. “You got the guys working out there at the plant and their wives were working in these shops, owning their own little businesses.”
Miles, 38, has lived here all his life, except for when he went away for college. He’s on the school board for the district his six children attend. He’s quick to point out that the Rockdale Tigers won the state high school championship for their football division last year. And that wasn’t the only good news for the town. In fact, Miles says the area might be turning a corner.
“They say that history repeats itself,” he says, referring to an August announcement that a Chinese-owned cryptocurrency company called Bitmain was moving into part of the old Alcoa smelter.