SABIC set to close in 2015

WASHINGTON- Shortly before Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced the new ethane cracker plant in Wood County, employees at SABIC were told their jobs would end in less than two years.

Officials with the plant confirmed a letter was sent to employees Thursday informing them operations at the plant would merge with existing plants in Illinois and Mississippi. The plant employs about 130 people.

SABIC Plant Manager Scott Dansey issued a statement Thursday afternoon.

“In an effort to increase its competitive position in the challenging global Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) market, SABIC today (Thursday) informed employees that we will consolidate our U.S. ABS operations. We will close our Washington, W.Va., facility and transfer some of its ABS production to SABIC’s Ottawa, Ill., and Bay St. Louis, Miss., facilities during the second quarter 2015,” Dansey said. “We anticipate that SABIC employees will continue to work at the site over the next 18 months to assist with this transition.

“We will be assisting our employees throughout this transition by offering a severance package that includes pay, education assistance, life insurance and medical benefits, as well as outplacement services to help employees with career skills, resume writing and training,” he said. “We also will proactively contact local employers to inform them of the talented individuals who will be available for employment once the site has closed.”

The notice to employees and public announcement came shortly before Tomblin announced the possible purchase of land at the SABIC plant by Odebrecht, saying the site is the location of a new ethane cracker plant.

The state was notified if the closure prior to the ethane cracker announcement, Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette said.

“They just informed us this morning,” Burdette said.

In his press release, Dansey noted SABIC had signed “an initial purchase agreement for the potential sale of the Washington property to a third-party entity. Our decision to close the Washington site was a difficult one to make, but we are hopeful that the sale of the property will ultimately prove to be beneficial to the local economy. We are also pleased to know that the third-party entity will consider hiring qualified, local workers if it builds its operations in Washington.”

SABIC officials Thursday afternoon confirmed the “initial purchase agreement” is with Odebrecht. The purchase, which has not yet been finalized, is for 500 acres of property that encompasses the plant itself and surrounding properties, including the Tri-C Sports Complex, which contains soccer, baseball and football fields.

Wood County administrator Marty Seufer said there had been no official notification in writing to the county of SABIC’s plans to close.

Wood County Commission President Wayne Dunn said he was notified in a phone call from plant officials following the commission’s regular meeting. Dunn said he was told 109 jobs would be lost, but 64 of those would be through retirements.

The former GE Plastics plant was purchased by SABIC in May 2007. GE bought the plant from Borg-Warner Chemicals in 1988. In 2008, SABIC cut 14 jobs, and the following year eliminated 48 more positions, with officials citing poor economic conditions. In 2010, 80 employees were laid off due to restructuring and two manufacturing lines being moved to the Ottawa, Ill., plant. At that time the plant employed about 220 people.