Washington Works marks 70 years

Photo by Jeffrey Saulton On Saturday the seventh diamond added to the DuPont sign at the gate of the Washington Works was unveiled, representing 70 years of operation in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

WASHINGTON, W.Va. — Despite the passing of seven decades officials at the Washington Works say the site is poised to be among chemical producing sites in the world building off a legacy built by its personnel.

On Saturday the 70th anniversary of the site was celebrated with remarks by officials and recognition of those who contributed to the site’s success.

Bob Fehrenbacher, Chemours Plant Manager and Washington Works site manager, said the day was a time to look back and forward.

“We are here today to celebrate our history and look anxiously toward our future,” he said. “We are here to celebrate perseverance and to celebrate challenging what we’ve always known and find strength and success in change.”

Fehrenbacher said those were the same words he spoke on July 1, 2015, the day when the employees of DuPont, Chemours and Kuraray America joined to raise their corporate flags at the site.

Photo by Jeffrey Saulton Hundreds of employees and retirees attended the 70th anniversary of the Washington Works plant south of Parkersburg in Washington Bottom, the home to Chemours, Kuraray America and Dow-Dupont. The theme of the picnic was the Wild West Fun Fest.

“I chose to use those words again because they resonate on this occasion,” he said. “Chemours, as a company, has achieved remarkable success in its first three years as a stand-alone company. They have become an enterprise finding its footing and finding its potential among the commercial elite and has established ourselves on the Fortune 500 list of the world’s top companies.”

Fehrenbacher said the products Washington Works supplies to the Chemours supply chain are critical. He said what they have done in the past does not compare with what their future holds.

“This site has an employee base that is unique and extraordinary,” he said.

Matt Koenigs, vice president of Dow-DuPont, said he worked at the Washington Works for 11 years and has worked in all areas represented by the three companies calling the Washington Works home.

Koenigs said he thanks the employees who make the plant what it is from a competitive viewpoint.

“I know the site has gone through a lot,” he said. “It has come through it and it has come through it in great shape. At this point we are working on how the three companies are working to improve the site infrastructure, making sure we have a great future for all three companies.”

Koenigs said they are also working on the reliability of the producing plants.

“I think the future of this site is strong,” he said.

In speaking about the Dow-Dupont merger, Koenigs said it is has been the longest merger in history.

“It was supposed to be no more than two years and that was two and a half years ago,” he said. “I can tell you I am absolutely certain by next June 1 it will be three companies.”

Dow will be spun off as a separate company from Dow-Dupont on May 31, 2019, Koenigs said, Corteva, an agricultural company, will be formed and spun off and the remaining company will be the new DuPont.

“For the polymer and advanced transportation units on the Belpre side of the river, will be part of the new DuPont,” he said. “I think it is great the 215-year-old company name will continue to be associated with this 70-year-old site as we go forward as a very competitive manufacturing facility, as part of the new specialty products oriented DuPont company.”

Jay Valvo, DuPont plant manger, said the Washington Works has a great legacy.

“I am very much looking forward to growing our site,” he said “As we grow our site it is best for our employees, it’s great for our business and it’s great for our site but it is also great for our community as we continue to grow,” he said. “If you think about how to grow the site, you have to have critical things needed to grow.”

Valvo said those are a hard-working and dedicated workforce, a strong business that is willing to invest in you and strong community support.

“There is no reason why this site can’t prosper for the next couple of decades,” he said. “We have the right recipe to really grow the site.”

Valvo said as they add a star to the entrance gate sign and prepared to separate into three companies, he is proud the Washington Works will still be DuPont.

“That sign will stay there for decades to come,” he said. “Thank you.”

Sam Suzuki, vice president of Kuraray America, said while the Kuraray name is new to the area, it is a company with a long history, established in 1926 in Japan. Today they have operations in Japan, Asia, Europe and North America.

In 2014 Kuraray became part of the site. He said their products are used in products from safety glasses to architecture to the automotive industry.

Suzuki said safety is important to the company and they are continuing a 16 accident-free year record in their unit.

“Now every day our team in Kuraray is working toward achieving the next new record of 17 years,” he said.

Suzuki said the company is investing in growing Washington Works with the construction of a second dryer unit. He said the second unit will be on line in 2019.

“We will grow with Washington Works,” he said.