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KENOVA — Braskem, the largest polyolefins producer in the Americas as well as a market leader and pioneer producer of biopolymers on an industrial scale, celebrated the 60th anniversary of its Neal production facility in Kenova in a virtual event.

“This is a significant milestone, and it wouldn’t be possible without the commitment and resilience of our entire Neal team. This extraordinary team has always put safety first while ensuring we can continue to supply our clients even in the most challenging times,” said Mark Nikolich, CEO of Braskem America.

Automotive dash boards, diapers, caps on milk jugs, hazmat suits, carpet backing, eyeglass frames — even medical equipment used in heart surgeries all have polypropylene materials produced right in Wayne County and shipped to manufacturers throughout the Eastern and Midwestern United States.

Braskem America’s Neal Plant is located across 100 acres in the industrial strip along the Big Sandy River. The plant — originally founded in 1961 and under the ownership of five companies since then — was most recently owned by Sunoco until 2010, when Braskem purchased Sunoco’s polymer operations throughout the United States.

The plant currently employs over 106 people, company officials said during the virtual ceremony that took place on Monday.

“During the initial days of COVID-19 and in the height of the pandemic’s uncertainty, the Neal production team lived at the production site for 28 days during March and April 2020 to ensure we could continue to supply the raw material needed to make critical personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep people safe during COVID. Congratulations to all our Neal team members, I couldn’t be prouder of our team,” Nikolich said.

Nikolich said Braskem has continually reinvested in the site, helping extend its successful track record for plant safety, reliability, efficiency and environmental protection.

“Neal is the first polymer plant in the United States to use Spheripol PP production technology, a technology that is now one of the most widely used PP production processes worldwide,” he said. “In 1988, this was a $40 million dollar investment in the site.”

In 2020, Braskem invested more than $50 million dollars for a new electrical infrastructure project and turnaround to improve and maintain the plant for years to come, Nikolich said.

“I am humbled to be part of such a great team here at Neal. Successfully reaching 60 years of production is no small feat, and I am truly proud to lead this team into the future,” said Laurence Kerrigan, plant manager at Neal.

Braskem has also been a strategic partner for the local community, officials noted during the ceremony. The company has invested over $150,000 in the local community.

Most recently, Braskem donated $30,000 to help Ceredo-Kenova War Memorial Community Center enable facility modernization and infrastructure improvements and donated $25,000 to the newest fleet addition for the Kenova Volunteer Fire Department.

Officials also talked about the company’s support of the “Project Lead the Way” program at Spring Valley High School, which helps the next generation of student leaders explore future careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Additional community support from the Neal Plant includes participation in the Eric Sparks Memorial Golf Tournament and support of the American Red Cross by hosting 16 blood drives since Jan. 30, 2014, collecting 519 total units of blood.

In the past, Braskem has supported the purchase of a new ambulance for the Kenova Volunteer Fire Department, donated to area food banks, helped fund a playground at Buffalo Elementary and more.

“We are also grateful to our local community for allowing us to be part of the Kenova community for the last 60 years,” Kerrigan added. “We look forward to many more years here.”

Fred Pace is the business reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Follow him at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD.

Fred has been in the newspaper industry for 30+ years. He continues to be excited to bring readers news that only comes thru local journalism. “Being able to share the passion felt by entrepreneurs in our community with readers is exciting,” he said.

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