Dow Chemical cuts ribbon on $2 billion in manufacturing investments in Louisiana

Staff Writer
Plaquemine Post South

Dow Chemical Company is growing once again and this time, it’s with a $2 billion boost to the state’s economy through manufacturing investments and celebrated with a ribbon-cutting at the plant’s Iberville Parish office last Thursday.

The expansion at Dow was originally announced in August 2013 and will include the construction of two new polyolefin plants to produce the next generation of synthetic rubber and high performance polyethylene as well as one million square feet of warehouse space.

Included in the investment is boosting Dow’s Ethylene capacity and a new command center for the company’s hydrocarbons operations, a restart of an existing ethylene unit in St. Charles Parish.

Dow’s huge investment will create 71 new jobs and the company expects the “multiplier effect” to produce 470 other jobs, over 3,000 will be employed by the construction of the new facilities and will support 150 local contractors.

Since breaking ground on its Louisiana Operations in 1956, Louisiana Operations is Dow’s largest plant in the state and one of the largest petrochemical facilities in Louisiana.

The company manufactures at its site straddling the line between Iberville and West Baton Rouge more than 50 different basic and specialty chemical products at its 3,300-acre plant.

The relationship between Dow, the state of Louisiana and Iberville and West Baton Rouge parishes was expressed by nearly ever speaker at the event. Many of the company’s top executives were there as well as U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, state Rep. Chad Brown and parish presidents Mitch Ourso of Iberville and Riley “Peewee” Berthelot of West Baton Rouge all spoke of that relationship.

“Dow has been part of this community and this community has been a part of Dow since 1956,” said Jim Fitterling, Dow president and COO. “History has shown us that there are great people here and in my experience, that makes all the difference – Great neighbors, great representatives in government and great employee who power everything we do.”

“The investments we’re celebrating today will be a tremendous part of Dow’s future and integral to our strategy by expanding our family of high performance polymers for flexible packaging that our customers are demanding,” he continued.

“We’re thankful for the support we’ve received from the community as well as our local, state and national representatives,” Fitterling said. “Without their support as well as the hard work of our employees and partners working diligently every day to safely meet our construction timeline, this investment would not have been possible.”

Dow Louisiana Operations Site Leader Eduardo Do Val echoed many of the same sentiments.

“Four years ago we stood in this same building and announced a growth project for Louisiana operations,” he said. “we stood next to our state partners and our West Baton Rouge and Iberville community and announced history-making growth that would total over $1 billion and bring over 200 jobs.”

“Today, we meet back here to cut the ribbon on an investment just shy of $2 billion where there are real faces tied to those jobs,” Do Val continued. “”We’re back here to celebrate not only the growth that has come out of the ground but also the benefits that this investment will bring in the future for Dow, our state and our community.”

Referencing the company’s arrival in Louisiana in 1956, Cassidy noted Dow’s arrival to the state was the start of a huge leap in progress all along the Mississippi River. He then quoted a passage from a biography written by A.J. Liebling of Earl K. Long, the governor at the time.

“In the first chapter, it says, ‘The year is 1956 and people are moving to Louisiana, families are moving to take advantage of the jobs offered by these industries up and down the river,’” Cassidy said. “That was my family.”

“Dad kept rolling between jobs, never seeming to gain traction and then he came down here in 1958 when I was just a year old because he could sell and make a living to all these people working in the petrochemical industry,” he continued. “That’s made all the difference in my family’s life.”

Cassidy said young people recently graduated with degrees in petrochemical degree will “have such a great future” because of investments like the one Dow was celebrating Thursday.

“Their life’s future is going to be so different because in the year 2017 somebody made an opportunity that would change their life,” he said.

“The story will be completed 50 years from now when somebody else gets up here and says, ‘You know my mom got a job at a technician and I went to school where she had not and now I’m here as a U.S. senator as we break ground on yet another,” Cassidy said. “That’s the way it works.”

Ourso said it was Dow who ushered in the rush of chemical plants into the corridor along the Mississippi River over 60 years ago.

“In 1953, I was born and three years later, Dow came here and it wasn’t until Dow came did the industrial revolution that began in 1956,” he said. “Beside Dow being the biggest employer and the biggest taxpayer in the parish, you all really mean a lot to us.”

“Thank you for everything Dow has meant to Iberville Parish,” Ourso said.

State Rep. Chad Brown talked about the role Dow Chemical has played in his life.

“I grew up where many of my friends’ parents were employees of Dow and now my friends and family are employees at Dow and the other chemical plants in the area,” he said.

“We recognize Dow’s importance to the community – Don’t every think that we don’t,” Brown said. “…I want to thank you for your investment and we’ll continue to work on this traffic.”

While Hank Grace, the executive director of the Iberville Chamber of Commerce could not be at last Thursday’s ribbon-cutting, he said in a statement, “Dow’s Louisiana Operations continues to be a leader in economic development in the state of Louisiana and the Capital Region.”

“The Iberville Chamber of Commerce is proud to partner with Louisiana Operations in bringing not only new capital investment to the area but quality jobs for our people,” he continued.