Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Salt Lake Billionaires Bring New Prosperity

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Salt Lake Billionaires Bring New Prosperity

Article excerpt

Byline: By Ian Mcneal

Investment in the North-East by multi-national manufacturing firms looks set to secure the future of the chemical and car-making industries in the region. Ian McNeal investigates.

If asked 20 years ago, few people on Teesside would have predicted that the fate of the area's chemical industry would lie in the hands of a Mormon family from Salt Lake City. But the decline of the once mighty ICI has seen much of the industry disintegrate and the need to take support from anywhere it is offered.

The Huntsmans are not your average US family, but the billionaire owners of the largest private chemical conglomerate in the world.

It is this company which appears to have secured the future of the chemical industry on Teesside for the next generation.

By their own admission, when Huntsman bought three ICI businesses in 1999, it was on the understanding that it would close the sites down within two years.

With all three still operating, Huntsman stunned industry recently with the announcement of a pounds 200m investment to build a low density polyethylene plant at the Wilton International chemical complex, near Redcar. The facility will create 117 jobs but, more importantly, secures hundreds of others in the Teesside chemical industry with the creation of more than a thousand more in construction and the local economy.

The largest of its type in the world, the plant will also turn the UK into a net exporter of polyethylene, producing 400,000 tonnes each year.

It is the biggest investment at the site for 25 years and has been heralded as major piece of good news by the workforce.

Karen Heaviside, 46, of Saltburn, has worked in the finance department for nearly 30 years.

"We are absolutely delighted at this news. Alongside Huntsman buying the business this was the greatest announcement that I have heard in my time here," she said.

"It is going to give security to the people who work here and sustain the business in this area in an industry that has been declining."

Peter Huntsman, Huntsman chief executive, said: "This is the culmination of four years' work and the development has been hindered by September 11 and world energy problems but it is better late than never. …

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