port bienville — The largest new industrial development in the state’s history, the $400-million Wellman Inc. Pearl River Plant, already has expansion plans that would make a total investment of more than $1 billion. The facility will produces PET (polyethylene terephthalate) resin and polyester staple fiber.
Currently, 1,200 construction workers are employed building the plant which, upon completion, will be the largest facility of its kind in the world. Construction of the plant is about two-thirds complete with the first PET resin line expected to be ready to go in October. When the second line PET resin line goes into production in early 1999, resin produced at the plant will be used to make one out of every 10 plastic PET bottles produced in the U.S.
PET is used for making soft drink containers, other food containers such as peanut butter and mayonnaise jars, and pill bottles. Wellman Inc., a Fortune 1000 company headquartered in South Carolina, is the world’s largest recycler of PET, and pioneered the technology to make fibers from recycled PET bottles for use in the fabric industry.
Mississippi Gov. Kirk Fordice, other state and local officials, and key PET resin customers of Wellman recently celebrated progress at the Pearl River Plant with an open house and tour of the large facility located on a 470-acre site in a rural area of southwest Hancock County near the Pearl River.
“The beginning of production at Wellman’s Hancock County plant will be a definite landmark for Mississippi’s economy, a strong indication that our chemical and plastics industry has reached a new level of maturity,” Fordice said. “I am delighted to welcome Wellman to its new home in Mississippi, where we enjoy one of this country’s most productive business climates. It is gratifying to see our economic development efforts reach fruition in this way, and I am confident that this partnership will continue to pay dividends in the years ahead.”
Fordice said state economic development officials have targeted the chemical and plastics industries because there are strategic advantages for those industries in Mississippi.
“Wellman is evidence of the success of that strategy,” Fordice said. “This ties in well with the University of Southern Mississippi polymer research facility, and I believe we will see more plastics businesses coming to Mississippi as a result of Wellman.”
Wellman CEO Tom Duff said the company’s decision to seek a partnership with the state of Mississippi has been an outstanding choice.
“We are developing a facility here in Hancock county which will benefit Wellman, our customers and employees, and the community at large,” Duff said. “Furthermore, this plant has been designed and engineered to facilitate future expansion. With the PET resin market continuing to experience double-digit growth each year, Wellman’s expansion easily supports this growth. This latest Wellman development is the next step in our growth strategy, and clearly positions the company to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century.”
Duff said the Pearl River Plant will be the low-cost provider of PET resin. He said the company decided to build the new plant in Mississippi rather than expand their operations in South Carolina because starting from scratch allowed the use of the best engineering and technology to produce high-quality resin at the lowest possible cost.
When phase one of the plant comes into full operation it is expected to employ 267 people producing 470 million pounds per year of PermaClear