Rockdale, Texas, an hour outside of Austin, was depending on a company called Bitmain – a Bitcoin “mining” company – to bring new jobs and revenue to the town after the Alcoa coal plant closed more than a decade ago. But when Bitcoin started losing value in 2018, Rockdale suffered. Bitmain postponed the opening of its facility, and ended up hiring a fraction of the several-hundred people it had originally promised.
Now, Bitmain says it will open its facility some time this summer, albeit on a much smaller scale. But for Rockdale, that might not be enough.
Mark Dent is an Austin-based freelance reporter who wrote about Bitmain and Rockdale for Wired. He says Bitmain’s troubles came at a time when Rockdale was already struggling economically – Dent calls it “Bitcoin winter.”
“It was a tough time for them, especially because of the way it went down,” Dent says. “There was also a couple of hospitals that closed in the last couple of years, and a coal plant; it just felt like more gloom and bad news.”
While Bitmain will likely open its facility by the end of this month, Dent says it won’t bring in the large number of jobs residents had hoped for when the facility was first proposed. And it certainly won’t be the worldwide Bitcoin-mining hub some had predicted it would be.
As a result, Dent says Rockdale is also looking for other ways to create jobs and bring in money.
“They’ve been talking now with some contractors who want to do a solar energy farm that could create a lot of jobs,” he says.
Written by Marina Marquez.