Commissioners to talk plant closings on Wednesday
Last updated 10/24/2023 at 7:19pm
As the county has been celebrating getting its biggest new industrial facility since World War II, two corporations announced they were closing their long-operating Orange plants. The two together could bring a loss of 500 or more jobs.
That number would be close to the number of permanent jobs created by the $8.5 billion ChevronPhillips Golden Triangle Polymers petrochemical plant under construction here. ChevronPhillips officials estimate 4,500 jobs related to construction will be needed.
Orange County Judge John Gothia said Commissioners Court is holding a special public workshop at 2 p.m. Wednesday, October 25, to talk about the efforts being made to keep the plants open. The meeting will be in the Commissioners Courtroom at 123 Sixth Street in the courthouse complex.
"We want to let people know that there are things we have talked about and tried to do with the state and local officials," Gothia said.
The commissioners, along with OC Economic Development Corporation Director Megan Layne, will also discuss how the county can work with local and state agencies to help laid-off employees find new jobs.
The group will also talk about how to help the Little Cypress-Mauriceville CISD with its loss of the biggest taxpayer in the school district. Gothia said he understands the papermill closing could cost the district 23 percent of its income.
On October 6, Invista announced it would immediately begin shutting down units and will close with more than 200 jobs eliminated by the end of 2024.
Invista is part of the original DuPont Sabine River Works petrochemical plant that was separated and sold 20 years ago. Koch Industries, the second largest privately-owned corporation in the U.S. bought the DuPont fabric unit sell-offs and renamed the company Invista.
Invista is on FM 1006, known locally as Chemical Row because it is lined for miles by petrochemical plants.
International Paper on October 18 announced it would close its Kraft papermill at the end of the year, along with facilities at two other sites. Business publications report the loss of jobs at the Orange mill will run from 200 to 300.
International Paper is north of Interstate 10 in Orange along State Highway 87 North. The mill was built in 1967 for Owens-Illinois. It sold in the 1980s to Temple Inland. International Paper has owned it for 15 years.
Gothia isn't optimistic about keeping Invista and International Paper. He said these days, corporate decisions are based on numbers and figures.
He has been working with Governor Greg Abbott's office, along with Orange County's State Representative Dade Phelan, who is speaker of the Texas House, to entice the corporations to keep their plants here open.
Gothia said those kind of efforts are difficult "when you get no notice until two months before (International Paper) closes."
The judge pointed out that an economic development deal the city of Orange made with International Paper in 2015 didn't help keep the mill open.
Under that agreement, International Paper requested to be annexed into the city limits. The city then made an agreement that the plant would not pay the city's share of sales taxes. The agreement was made after the Orange County Emergency Services District No. 3 voters implemented a sales tax that was costing the paper mill money. Orange kept it's Industrial District Contract for paying property taxes as part of the deal.
Judge Gothia said the news still isn't all bad for the local future. Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana are going through an oil-related industrial boom. Refineries are adding more units, the new chemical plant is under construction in Orange, LNG (liquid natural gas) facilities and docks are going up along the coasts of Jefferson County and Cameron Parish. Petrochemical plants in Lake Charles are expanding.
Lots of jobs are waiting to be filled. Gothia said commissioners will discuss how they can help the people being laid off jobs. The county has had two large job fairs, but another one is needed "for the people who didn't know they would be needing jobs," he said.
"This would have been bleak if it had happened ten years ago," he said about the two plant closings.