SNF hopes to invest $350 million in Iberville

Deidre Cruse

SNF Inc., a privately held French company that manufactures water-soluble polymers, hopes to build a $350 million facility that would ultimately would hire a permanent workforce of 500, a company representative announced last week.

“We’ve been looking at sites form Texas to Alabama,” said Brian Soucy, an independent engineering contractor who handled site selection for SNF. “The Plaquemine site has been looking real promising to us for a long time.”

A key consideration in the selection was a “very good and very substantial” incentive package from the state that was necessary to make the site competitive, said Soucy, president of the Georgia-based firm Global Environmental Solutions Inc. who has worked with SNF for 15 years.

The final decision to build the plant here depends on SNF coming to an agreement to run a railroad spur across Shintech property to its 800-acre site just down river, Soucy said.

“The railroad spur is the only major issue that potentially could keep us from going on that site,” he said. “We’ve made a lot of progress in the last week or two.”

Shintech Plant Manger David Wise has worked hard to work out the arrangements, but the agreement for the right of way would be for a long-term of 20 to 100 years, Soucy said.

“It makes it complicated,” he said. “He is continuing to work with us.”

Soucy said SNF is the world’s leading producer of a water treatment process used both for potable water and wastewater treatment.

The product has municipal, industrial and agricultural applications, he said, as well as a promising new use in oil fields.

“The potential in the enhanced oil recovery market is huge,” Soucy said.

The Plaquemine plant, if it is built, will be constructed over a five-year period.

The first phase, which would start up in late 2010 or early 2011 would need 125 permanent employees. Within five years, the company would hire just over 500 workers.

“These are for people who don’t qualify for high tech jobs in the chemical industry,” said Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr.

“This is a big win for Iberville Parish,” said Iberville Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Hank Grace who has worked with Ourso for nearly a year and a half to entice the company to locate here. “It creates good, quality jobs during a downturn in the economy.”

The jobs, however, pay well and include health insurance and retirement packages, they said.

The retirement package includes a defined benefit program “at a time when everyone is taking those away,” in addition to a 401K offering, Soucy said. He said the French company officials think good benefits are important to maintaining a good workforce.

“Our jobs, unlike a lot of large chemical facilities, don’t require a lot of specialized skills,” Soucy said. “There is a lot manual handling of products.”

The company uses liquid raw materials, delivered in railroad tank cars, to produce a non-hazardous power packaged in 50-pound bags, the consultant said.

“I think Iberville and surrounding parishes have the labor mix that we need,” Soucy said. “There is also access to rail and water available at that site.”

The company has a substantial demand for caustic soda and other raw materials produced at Shintech, Georgia Gulf and Dow Chemical, thus lowering shipping costs, he said.


SNF hopes to have its construction and operating permits in order by the end of the year. Soucy said because the products used to manufacture the powder are hazardous, the company will need environmental permits from the state, as well as U. S. Army Corps of Engineers’ wetlands permits and permission to draw water from the river or ground water supplies.