Research center employs 175


November 13, 1992|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Staff Writer

ELKTON -- Himont Inc. has one word for Maryland: plastics -- specifically, the polypropylene type.

That particular kind of plastic is the focus of a new $29 million research center recently opened by the company in Elkton, in Northeast Maryland. With 175 scientists, technicians and other employees, the center seeks to find ways to make polypropylene plastic stronger, more versatile and easier to recycle.

"Himont is dedicated to new types of materials," said Paolo Galli, corporate research director for Montecatini S.p.A., Himont's Italian parent.

To mark the start of the research center, the company held a dedication ceremony yesterday at which state and local officials sang the praises of the new building, which is styled with a European flair.

"We're very pleased you are here," said Gov. William Donald Schaefer. "It's very important to us."

One of the main reasons Himont decided to build the research center in Cecil County was a $2.3 million loan the state made to Himont in 1989 from its "sunny day fund." That fund was established in 1988 to help attract business to Maryland.

"The sunny day fund was very important," Mr. Schaefer said. "We know it was a very wise investment."

Mark L. Wasserman, secretary of the state's Department of Economic and Employment Development, said the fund gives the state more latitude in attracting new business than other, traditional programs do.

"That source of funds is unbelievably valuable to us," he said.

The fund contains about $3.1 million, according to a DEED spokeswoman.

The 175,000-square-foot research center is the twin of Himont's research facility in Ferrara, Italy. The 200-acre site in Cecil County was chosen partly because of its proximity to Himont's corporate headquarters and research operation in Wilmington, Del.

With factories and related operations in Texas, Louisiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Michigan, Himont is the world's largest supplier of polypropylene resins for makers of products ranging from food containers to car bumpers.

Himont was formed in 1983 as a joint venture between Hercules Inc. of Wilmington and Montecatini, which is part of the Ferruzzi/Montedison Group based in Milan, Italy. By 1990, Montecatini had bought complete control of Himont.

Himont is also a partner with ITC Inc. of Baltimore in creating plastic-recycling operations around the country.

The joint venture, called Polymer Resource Group Inc., began an operation at the Rossville Industry Park on Yellow Brick Road that sorts and cleans plastic waste, which is then turned into pellets and flakes, said Richard D. Montgomery, president of Polymer Resource Group.

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