Dow Chemical announces plant expansions, more jobs to come

April 19, 2012 4:41:15 PM PDT
Thousands of jobs are going to be available now that Dow Chemical is expanding again. It's all due to natural gas derivatives, and the move will bring jobs to the Freeport area.

Dow Chemical announced plans for its second and third major plant expansion in Brazoria Tuesday. One will be an herbicide plant and the other two are production facilities for natural gas components. That means a lot of jobs in a still-recovering economy.

For a small Texas town, this is an especially big deal. In the next five to seven years, up to 5,000 construction jobs to build three new chemical plants.

"It does take my breath away. Three large investments all in 60 days, building some of the planet's most valuable building blocks for products that 95 percent of everything you touch every day needs these building blocks," Dow Chemical Chairman Andrew Liveris said.

From plastic bottles, to parts of the cars you drive and the phones you use to communicate, the natural gas derivatives produced there will mean big money for southeast Texas. It's made possible, in part, by a huge investment by the state of Texas and what Gov. Rick Perry calls the right kind of environment to attract big business.

"They're not coming here just because we've got great music and beer and BBQ, they're coming here because they know that they can keep more of what they work for and they can in turn pour that back into this company," Perry said.

But it's not just the business climate that made this enormous expansion possible for Dow Chemical. It's also the incredibly low cost of natural gas. Domestically produced, it's much cheaper than oil right now and makes production of those chemical building blocks all the more desirable.

"The availability of low-cost fuel, low-cost natural gas, will help reindustrialize certain sectors of the American economy," said Bob Tippee with the Oil & Gas Journal.

Eventually, the cost of natural gas will go up, but as long as it stays low, expect this influx of business and jobs to be just the beginning.

"You can't write the history of Dow without a chapter or two on Texas and I'd like to think that the reverse is true as well," Liveris said.

On top of the thousands of construction jobs, once those three plants are complete, Dow estimates they'll collectively employ 300 full-time workers.

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