Sorrell weighs in on BASF closure
City plans to shop site to other industrial prospects
By JOHN RECH
Last week, chemical manufacturing giant BASF announced plans to shutter its West Memphis plant. The company had reduced staff in recent years and the closure will eliminate the final three dozen positions at the riverside plant on Bridgeport Road. City Economic Develop ment Executive Director Phillip Sorrell offered an overview of the BASF operation and offered job placement assistance for displaced workers.
The 25-acre site developed by the Army Corps of Engineer in the 1930’s for barge repair stood within its own levee. The Corp sold the site in fifty years later and a few chemical manufacturers operated there in succession at to the river side before BASF bought the plant.
“We’re sad to hear them closing,” said Sorrell. “That plant has been in operation since the mid ’80s under different companies. At their height, BASF employed over 200 people there with good paying jobs. Several years ago, they began cutting production lines and reduced it down to one unit. They’ve been operating with about 35 employees for the last three to four years. They’ve now decided to completely shutter it. It
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was completely a corporate decision. Apparently the cost of operating this facility was too great for them.”
BASF announced cessation of operations in just over a year for December 2021. Layoffs were set in proportion to the decommissioning process.
”This is a difficult situation as the West Memphis team has worked tirelessly to improve our operations and quality of our products,” said Steve Maccani, site manager for BASF’s West Memphis facility. “Our prioritiescontinue to be the well-being of our employees and maintaining safe operations during the closureprocess.”
The factory produced rheology modifiers, wetting agents, and polyurethane resins used in the ink industry. BASF planned for relocating rheology modifiers and wetting agents to other production locations.
Sorrell planned outreach to the corporation and the displaced employees.
”It’s a big impact for the 35 people who lost their jobs,” said Sorrell. “We’d like to assist them to transition into something else with the new jobs created recently in the area. We don’t take it lightly when anyone looses their work.”
Sorrell planned to offer BASF help in marketing the vacated site to another company.
It was a corporate decision, no outreach was given to us to try to mitigate it,” said Sorrell. “It was purely driven by market demand for their product diminishing. It’s our intent to reach out to BASF about their plans for the property to see if there is an opportunity to market it to another large industrial prospect.”
Marketing a chemical plant presented challenges.
“Sometimes you don’t get a response from a large company,” said Sorrell. “Chemical plants can be tricky because you never know what you are going to get into once you are inside.”