Invista announces plans to add new $500 million unit to Victoria plant (video)


Sept. 12, 2013 at 4:12 a.m.
Updated Sept. 13, 2013 at 4:13 a.m.

Paul Hughes, Invista plant manager introduces details for a new addition to the  Invista manufacturing plant in Victoria on Thursday.

Paul Hughes, Invista plant manager introduces details for a new addition to the Invista manufacturing plant in Victoria on Thursday.

A more than $500 million addition could be on its way to Victoria.

Invista on Thursday announced plans to build a combined hydrogen and anhydrous ammonia manufacturing unit at its existing site. The move, still in its permitting stages, is pending approval, Steve Harvill, Invista's director of strategic projects for Victoria, said during a presentation to city officials inside the Victoria Preservation Inc. building.

The proposed unit would produce hydrogen for making ammonia, replacing Invista's current manufacturing methods with something more efficient, Harvill said. It also allows the plant to create steam more efficiently than it does now and make its own ammonia at a lower cost than it takes to purchase it.

"So it will produce high-quality materials that we use today, and that reinforces the competitiveness of the site," he said.

According to an Invista news release, the completed unit could produce more than 400,000 tons of anhydrous ammonia per year.

If approved, construction would take an estimated 20 months, Harvill said. Ground would break in 2015, with production starting up two years later.

While the plant would employ 15 to 25 permanent employees, it would create more than 400 construction jobs during the project's peak.

Site Manager Paul Hughes listed several reasons for Invista to invest further in Victoria.

The site maintains a globally competitive position, he said, and a new unit would improve that standing. The region's skilled workforce, community support and abundance and price of the natural gas were other factors.

Finally comes the pro-business environment felt throughout the state and Victoria.

Dale Fowler, president of the Victoria Economic Development Corp., said the corporation is working with Invista on "significant financial incentives" regarding the project. However, plans have yet to be finalized.

He said talks include tax abatements as well as a property tax limitation the Victoria school district could offer the plant.

"Either way, it's going to mean some very positive tax base for the taxing entities very soon," he said. "So this is truly one of those great projects that's a win-win."

Robert Jaklich, superintendent of the Victoria school district, said any property value limitation must undergo a thorough examination before going before the board for approval. Still, the board in July approved a resolution in support of Chapter 313 of the Texas Tax Code, which allows companies meeting certain qualifications to apply for such limitations.

"The board took action to say we're very interested in supporting this," he said of the economic development opportunities. "Once we get all the information, we'll make a decision."

Any change that impacts Invista impacts Victoria College as well, said Tom Butler, the college's president. Invista is one of the college's biggest partners, he explained, and VC offers training for the plant.

Although the incoming expansion won't add many employees - and therefore won't mean too many more people training - he said it could urge the college to improve its process technology lab.

"I think this opens the door for us to make sure our training meets their training needs," Butler said.

Rep. Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria, described Invista's announcement as "one more thing going great in our community." The project means more jobs and opportunities, she said, and further illustrates Victoria's assets.

"I think we have all a business could look for," she said, noting that included transportation options, the Port of Victoria and more. "It's great."

As for Hughes, he said there are still more hurdles to overcome before the project is approved, but Thursday's announcement marked one milestone.

"It's not a done deal," he said, "but it feels good to be at a stage where we can talk about it."



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