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Community responds to plant rumors

Economic development leaders in the area were inundated with phone calls on Tuesday over rumors that Haverhill Chemicals in Franklin Furnace might be shutting down in 60 days.

The company said it is only undergoing, however, a temporary shutdown.

“Haverhill Chemicals is working to define ways to be competitive in its market,” according to a company statement. “At this time the company is idling units to ensure materials are stored safely. This impacts the facility and it is unknown at this time how long it will remain in this shutdown. Haverhill Chemicals has said it will continue to communicate with its employees and stakeholders as it moves through this issue.”

Right now there are 175 employed at the plant that makes a variety of chemicals, many used in the auto industry.

“Ninety-five have called on my cell phone,” Jason Kester, executive director of the Southern Ohio Port Authority in Scioto County, said on Tuesday afternoon. “We’ve got a lot of rumors. We haven’t got any official notice, but a lot of talk.”

At soon as the rumors began, those involved in the economic welfare of Lawrence and Scioto counties started reaching out to potential resources to stave off a possible loss

“If it is true, we want to make sure we are as well-positioned as possible,” Kester said.

Those approached include JobsOhio and the office of U.S. Congressman Bill Johnson, R-6.

“The reports indicating Haverhill Chemicals may shut its doors are very troubling,” according to a statement from Johnson. “Having such a plant closing would have a detrimental impact on those who work there and their families, and would create a potentially damaging ripple effect on many of the surrounding industrial facilities that rely on one another.

“ Right now, I am in the process of reaching out and attempting to gather as much accurate information as I can, as the situation is fluid. I will certainly work with the local elected officials, union leaders and any industries affected in an effort to keep the plant up and running – and people employed. The phenol and acetone markets are relatively strong right now, and there is a demand for the product, so I am hopeful a solution can be found in which everyone involved comes out ahead. “

There are 100 salaried employees and 75 union workers.

Those union members, who work out of the Tri-State Building Trades hall in Ashland, do maintenance at the plant.

“And they do turnaround projects,” Mark Johnson, business manager of the building trades hall, said.

For a limited time those jobs can send employee rolls up to 200 to 250.

“That plant is important to our members, who work there,” he said. “It is very important to our community. Good-paying jobs are few and far between in Appalachia.”

Haverhill Chemicals LLC took over the site when it was Sunoco Inc. in 2011. The plant produces phenol, acetone, bisphenol A and alpha methylstyrene, according to its website. These chemicals are used to make resins and solvents.

The Haverhill operation started in 1961 as a joint operation between Pittsburgh Chemical and Amoco. In 1966 USS Chemical purchased the joint venture. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s the plant made multiple expansions.

In 1986 the plant became Aristech Chemical; later it was acquired from Mitsubishi Corp. and then Sunoco. In 2011 Goradia Capital of Houston bought the operation.

Lawrence Economic Development Corporation director Dr. Bill Dingus is hopeful if any challenges exist, the company can meet them.

“I think all the community is supportive,” Dingus said. “It is a private firm. We want to give them the ability to work through this. Over the decade, it has been such a solid part of the community. We hope this is only a rumor.”