• 1892 - Company founded
• 1962 - Charleston plant opens
• 1999 - Arch Chemicals is spun off from the original company to make swimming pool products
• 2012 - New facility expected to be completed late in the year
CHARLESTON, Tenn. - Olin Chlor Alkali Products, a major employer here for almost 50 years, broke ground Friday on new manufacturing facilities valued at $160 million.
When the work is completed in 2012, the site will produce chlorine, caustic soda and related products with a 200,000-ton annual capacity, company officials said.
In front of hundreds of employees, retirees, company and elected officials from Bradley, McMinn and Meigs counties, Frank Chirumbole, Olin Corp. president, said, "The time has come to update our manufacturing processes.
"We have locations across North America, but it was easy decision to make this sizable investment here," Chirumbole said. "Tennessee has created a business climate appreciated by manufacturers throughout the world."
Chirumbole said Tennessee has provided incentives to assist with the financing of the project, including $41 million of tax-exempt variable rate Recovery Zone Facility bonds.
Olin has 280 employees at its Charleston location. The new facilities aren't expected to add jobs.
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland said Olin "could build anywhere in the world, but they have seen the quality of the people here who make the products and the quality of living here."
The project will expand the plant's production of potassium hydroxide, a component of food processing, fertilizers, herbicides, soaps, detergents, airplane de-icing fluids and other products, the company said.
The new plant will be mercury-free, the company said. The presence of mercury has created environmental concerns, including some protests in past years.
"Olin has been in our community for over 60 years and they have demonstrated time and time again their commitment to Charleston," Charleston Mayor Walter Goode said.
Dozens of retirees also were in the audience for the groundbreaking.
Norman Barnard, 93, recalled being present in 1962 for the plant's original groundbreaking. Unlike Friday's searing heat, rain and mud marked that day, he recalled.
"Olin was the best thing that had happened to Bradley County," he said.
Gov. Bill Haslam said in a statement that established Tennessee companies such as Olin "provide a solid foundation on which our state's economy will continue to grow."
State Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty said his office has renewed a focus on existing industries because they are by far the biggest job creators in the state.