Orange leaders, business professionals share potential impacts of $8.5B plant development
Published 12:30 am Wednesday, March 8, 2023
When John Gothia took the microphone Tuesday afternoon in front of more than 100 local officials and visiting business leaders, he was honest about his feeling on the state of development.
“I am 61 years old, and I have been here for 55 years. This is the biggest thing I have ever seen in my life here,” the Orange County judge declared.
Gothia was one of a half-dozen featured speakers at this week’s Golden Triangle Polymers groundbreaking.
The $8.5 billion facility is a joint venture between Chevron Phillips Chemical and Qatar Energy.
Construction is underway and startup is expected in 2026.
Highlights shared are the promise of 4,500 temporary jobs during peak construction.
Once operational, the plant will produce Marlex polyethylene with a goal to employ approximately 500 full-time workers.
“It is hard to beat that. One of the reasons I got into this job a few years ago when I decided to run was I wanted to see job opportunities for our youth and our kids,” Gothia said.
The judge stressed the plant’s construction gives the county’s residents an opportunity to capitalize on what follows, a concept he repeatedly called exciting.
“It is exciting to have all of y’all here, with both companies coming together to form a partnership to be a great community partner and great community leader,” Gothia said. “That is what it takes to make this thing a go. It is exciting to see. I don’t know how many times I can say that. We are glad you are here, we welcome you and look forward to what the future brings in Orange County.”
College, workforce investment
Lamar State College Orange President Dr. Tom Johnson said when the plant’s potential first came on the radar, education officials did all they could to show they were ready to partner and train the workforce required.
Fast forward to this week, and Golden Triangle Polymers Company presented a $1.3 million check to the college to facilitate the purchase of a Polaris Hands-on-Training 3 Glycol Distillation Trainer.
LSCO Industrial Systems students will be able to train on the very equipment needed for work in the field.
“That has been a big thing to be able to work with them,” Johnson said after this week’s groundbreaking. “It has taken a long time, but we are getting there.”
Johnson said LSCO’s faculty has the experience necessary to train the next generation of plant personnel.
“Our teachers have been in the workforce actually doing this,” he said. “Most of them are retired (from the field) and came back with real-world experience from the plants. That translates into you learning from the masters of those areas.”
Orange Mayor Larry Spears Jr. said this development is something many have prayed on for a long time.
“When I first started five years ago as mayor, we were in an area that many people tried to say was dead, that nothing was coming back here,” he said. “To see this come to fruition in only five years, a place that is going to provide 4,500 jobs, is going to give life back to our community. Along with all the other things that are happening right now across the City of Orange and the county, I am elated and very thankful. I know God has been good to us, and it is just beginning. There is more to come.”
Spears knows the residents of Orange are ready to meet the challenge.
“A lot of us have worked in this field for years,” he said. “We have a lot of ladies and gentlemen who have the degrees and are ready to go. If there is a way to do anything better or improve, we are going to work on that and see how we can help students get prepared for what is to come.”
The president and chief executive officer of Chevron Phillips Chemical said the new plant site might not yet look like much, but he feels Gold Triangle Polymers is already making a very positive contribution in Orange County and the U.S. Gulf Coast.
“We are grateful for your trust and will work hard to keep it,” Bruce Chinn said. “CP Chemical has enjoyed a decades-long relationship with Orange County. Its citizens have been our neighbors for more than 65 years.”
He noted the existing plant in the county employs more than 200 staff members.
“We work here, we worship here and raise our families here,” Chinn said. “We’re invested in the welfare of the community because we live here, too.”
Chinn said Marlex polyethylene will be used by Golden Triangle Polymers customers to create “all the things we know and love.”
“It could be kayaks, it could be coolers, playground equipment. It is also a key ingredient in essential plastic products that the world relies on like pipes that carry clean water, packaging that keeps our food fresh and medical equipment that saves lives.”
Over the next 20 years, Chinn said the plant is expected to contribute $50 billion in residual economic impacts for surrounding communities.