Albemarle Corp. announces $30M expansion project

TYRONE – On the heels of an $8 million expansion project, Albemarle Corp. is ready to embark on an even bigger project – a $30 million expansion at its plant in the Tyrone Industrial Park.

“This will be the single largest expansion project ever at the plant,” said plant manager Randy Andrews. “We hope to break ground in March and be up and running during the first quarter of 2014. We will add 20 new jobs up front, and this will allow us more room to grow and enable us to add more jobs down the road.”

Plans for the project were announced Tuesday morning at the plant.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through the Governor’s Action Team will provide a $100,000 Pennsylvania First Grant and $50,000 in job training assistance, said Kate Fairweather, Central Region director, Governor’s Action Team, state Department of Community and Economic Development.

“This was a total team effort, and I have no doubt this will not be our last trip to Blair County to support a job creating effort. We truly believe the best is yet to come,” Fairweather said.

Albemarle Corp., headquartered in Baton Rouge, La., is a leading global developer, manufacturer and marketer of highly-engineered specialty chemicals for consumer electronics, petroleum refining, utilities, packaging, construction, automotive /transportation, pharmaceuticals, crop protection, food-safety and custom chemistry services.

Albemarle – and its predecessors, Quality Chemical, QCI and ChemFirst Fine Chemicals – has been a part of the industrial park since 1975.

Officials said the expansion project is badly needed.

“It [the plant] is full. In this business, if we don’t have openings we can’t grow. We need to create more capacity for certain types of products,” Andrews said.

The project calls for construction of three new buildings: 7,000 square feet of office/lab space; 3,500 square feet of maintenance area; and a 7,000-square-foot processing plant. The project also includes an upgrade of the plant’s electrical service, Andrews said.

“This project shows how we can come together to make good things happen. Each plant has its own characteristics. This one is built around strong community-minded people; the people here are second to none. You should be proud of what you have here and what you are building,” said Ronald C. Zumstein, Albemarle Corp. vice president of manufacturing.

Altoona-Blair County Development Corp. played a key role in the project.

“We coordinated the whole effort, gathering information from the company on the specifics of the project, and will continue to work with them as they advance through the construction of the project,” ABCD President and CEO Martin J. Marasco said.

A recently completed $8 million project at the plant doubled the capacity for a fertilizer additive, which comes in both liquid and solid forms, for an Albemarle customer, Andrews said.

He said the company added tanks and equipment as well as about six employees for that project. Construction started in March and the new project began operating in November.

“Our ag business has been very successful,” Andrews said. “Agricultural chemicals make up about 60 percent of our total business in Tyrone.”

Albemarle manufactures between 20 and 25 different products at its Tyrone plant, which are shipped off to larger chemical companies. Products made in Tyrone go across the United States and around the world.

He said about 75 percent of the business is domestic, and 25 percent is spread around the world.

“Why this site has been so successful is because of the people here who operate this site,” said Scott A. Martin, Albemarle Corp. vice president of fine chemistry, who served as Tyrone plant manager from 1991 to 1995.