Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Powerhouse Industry Suffers a Double Blow

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Powerhouse Industry Suffers a Double Blow

Article excerpt

Byline: Andrew Mernin

FEARS over the future of the region's process industry powerhouse were raised last night after the news that two factories on the site - employing 180 people - will close.

The chemicals and manufacturing hub at Wilton, on Teesside, which employs 5,000 people directly and has attracted pounds 1.2bn of investment over the last 15 years, took a double hit yesterday as two major players announced plans to close operations.

First came the news that chemicals giant Dow would shut its ethylene oxide (EO) and glycol production facility by January, casting uncertainty over the 55 jobs it sustains.

This then led to nearby Croda International, which relies on Dow's EO as a core raw material for the majority of its products, to concede that it will also close early next year.

Dow's workforce and Croda's 125 staff will undergo a consultancy period in the coming months to help them prepare for the transition ahead.

However, the impact of the closures could also be felt by some of the major tenants and the 90 smaller firms on the 2,000-acre Wilton site.

The cracker plant, run by Saudi chemicals group Sabic, supplies Ethyl-ento Dow while Sembcorp supplies both Dow and Croda with utilities and services including power and steam.

Workers' union Unite warned that the closures could have a "ripple" effect across the chemical industry, putting thousands of jobs at risk.

National officer Phil McNulty said: "Unite is working day and night to find a solution to this threatened closure because its loss would be devastating."

The decision to close the Dow facility was taken after a comprehensive review and search for potential buyers involving industry leaders, regional and government groups.

Dow's site leader Malcolm Wilson said: "Decisions to shut down a facility are not taken lightly. Without an economically viable alternative it is with great regret we have to announce our intention to stop production at the Wilton site. …

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