ABERDEEN – Through five decades’ worth of economic ups and downs, the names of one local plant may have changed several times, but its testament to success has remained on the same upward path. For Axiall’s 50th anniversary celebration, Friday, Oct.25, dignitaries representing local, state and national government milled around with those representing their employer, which depicts the same scenario of its beginnings.
“I think what 50 years says is this is a well-run plant providing an essential product. You don’t get to be 50 without a great partnership with community leaders. State and local government have been great advocates,” said Alan Chapple, director of public relations for Axiall.
In a presentation, plant manager Doug Knittig explained the history of the company that was built on a good relationship between Thompson Apex Chemical Company and local leaders.
Thompson Apex Company contacted the Mississippi A & I board, which was the forerunner for the Mississippi Development Authority, in its search for an industrial site somewhere between New England and Texas. A favorable tax structure, good transportation and cooperative local officials who went above and beyond helped draw the plant to town.
Originally desiring to anchor in Prairie, Apex chose Aberdeen because Cold War fears were comforted with its stronger police presence.
“As you have a plant like this for 50 years, that’s something that just doesn’t happen. When plants don’t make it, it could be from within the plant, something at the local or state level or even globally. This team rises to the challenge,” said Jim Hull, Axiall vice president of manufacturing.
During his time at the podium, Chapple read a proclamation from Gov. Phil Bryant honoring the plant for its 50-year milestone.
When the Aberdeen Examiner announced on May 12, 1962 that Monroe Manufacturing was coming to town, its construction soon started that September and by April 21, 1963, its 23 initial employees were hired.
The plant, which produces PVC resin, PVC compound and plasticizer used for products such as pipe, wire, cable, garden hoses and chair mats, has undergone several name changes throughout its 50 years. While some may remember it as Vista, Conoco, Condea Vista and most recently Georgia Gulf, Axiall’s new name was announced this January, signaling a merger between Georgia Gulf and PPG’s commodity chemicals business.
Locally, Axiall employs 145 employees and 27 contractors currently and has a $25 million impact on the local economy. During the past three years, the plant has gone without a reported injury. Since the 1980s, it has increased production by 200 percent while cutting emissions by 75 percent. Axiall produces 18 to 20 railcars, or more than three million pounds, of product per day.
“In northeast Mississippi, we still believe in manufacturing. Some places are trying to get away from that, but not here. I think that industry is a very important proponent and we want to build on that. When it comes to government regulation, if it’s too hard, it will drive people away so the best approach is to come in as a partner instead of using ‘gotcha’ tactics,” said Sen. Roger Wicker.
Axiall’s 100-year lease with Monroe County continues until 2062.
"We've done a great job modifying technology and are continually improving the process to move forward for the next 50 years. Part of our success long term is our employees as they work together as a team," Knittig said.