Good Industry news hits Demopolis

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 15, 2004

In small communities like Demopolis, where every job and every industry matters, news of economic instability and plant closures can dampen morale and instigate rumors.

Last week, McClain E-Z Pack, which employed more than 40 hourly workers, announced the lay-off of all those employees. At the same time, corporate officials from McClain indicated they were actively marketing their company.

The news struck Demopolis much like it would in any other small town. Along with union negotiations at Gulf States, the rumor mill immediately moved to Borden Chemical, which employs 27 area citizens. In fact, an official with the city of Demopolis heard it was “a done deal,” and that Borden would close its doors.

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In a manner of speaking, there is a “done deal” at Borden. The deal is that Borden’s corporate office recently completed a review of all its North America plants and liked what they saw in Demopolis.

“The reviews are something we do periodically,” said Peter Loscocco, spokesman for Borden. “After the study was completed, we decided to keep the Demopolis plant open.”

Lynn Rieves, who has managed the plant for the past year, said the Demopolis site has undergone a “great deal of change in the past year,” and some of that has led to more efficient performance.

“We have a heavy focus on safety and education in respect to safety,” Rieves said.

Borden Chemical, Inc., based in Columbus, Ohio, is a global source for adhesives, resins and curable coating, among many other things. The Demopolis plant, which produces resins for particle boards and other wood products, has a good niche, according the Loscocco.

“There are some reasons, geographically, that we’re keeping the Demopolis plant open,” he said. “The products being manufactured there are important and business has been good in that area.”

Even still, Rieves thinks there’s plenty of room to grow at the local plant.

“We need the economy to improve,” she said. “That will help the manufacturing industry, which will help us.”

For now, Loscocco said Borden’s Demopolis facility will not scale back its work force. The 27 employees, he said, are ideal for this operation. There will be other Borden plants around North America that “reshuffle” their staffs, but Demopolis will not be one of those.

In the business and economic world — especially when dealing with small communities — Demopolis Mayor Austin Caldwell said losing one industry like McClain can often dampen morale toward economic progress.

“When one thing happens, and when people aren’t aware of all the facts involved, that’s when you have rumors,” Caldwell said. “It can affect a large segment of the community, but I don’t really see that happening in Demopolis. We have too many people who have a positive outlook on this city.”

And even with the case of McClain, Caldwell said that industry may make its own comeback.

“They didn’t close the plant, and if the market improves, I believe McClain will open again,” he said.