Vista Chemical plans to upgrade city plant

January 11, 1994|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Staff Writer

Vista Chemical Co., a Houston-based chemical company, announced yesterday it was launching a $100 million, three-year project to upgrade its Baltimore plant on Fairfield Road.

The improvements will allow the plant, which employs 170 workers, to use less costly raw materials as part of a cost-cutting program, company spokeswoman Gretchen Weis said. The project, scheduled to be completed in late 1996, will employ an additional 200 people for two years starting next year, she said.

Vista is the nation's largest producer of linear alkylbenzene (LAB), an ingredient of household detergents and industrial cleaning products.

The company's Baltimore plant produces about 300 million pounds of LAB a year. Another Vista plant in Lake Charles, La., with 50 workers, makes about 200 million pounds of the chemical each year.

"Vista is making a significant commitment to its detergent alkylate business and the Baltimore plant with this expenditure," said Bruce Larsen, president of Vista's surfactants and specialties division. "With completion of this project, Baltimore's position as a world-class facility and Vista's continued competitiveness will be ensured."

The project started with the recent signing of contracts with UOP Inc., of Des Plaines, Ill., which will supply process technology; and Litwin Engineers and Contractors Inc. of Houston, which will complete the engineering designs.

The company, in announcing its decision to upgrade the plant, cited the support of the state Department of Economic and Employment Development and Gov. William Donald Schaefer in the company's protest of Canada allegedly subsidizing LAB production in that country.

State officials wrote letters last year to Mickey Kantor, U.S. trade representative for the Clinton administration, protesting the Canadian plans.

"The overall responsiveness [by the state] has made management comfortable making investments in this area," said Peter E. Markey, the manager for the Baltimore plant.

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