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Written by MARK JAEGER   
Wednesday, 07 September 2011 15:11

Entire staff retained as Arkema acquires former CCP chemical factory


There wasn’t a lot of fanfare accompanying the change in name and ownership this summer at Saukville’s Cook Composites & Polymers, and that is just fine with the new owners.THE NEW SIGN erected this summer outside the former Cook Composites & Polymers plant in Saukville reflects the global vision of its new owners, Arkema Inc. The sign proclaims “The world is our inspiration.”                                                          Photo by Mark Jaeger

On July 1, Arkema Inc., an international chemical company based in Paris, acquired  the CCP plant — along with three other facilities specializing in the production of coatings resins — from the energy company TOTAL, another French conglomerate.

The other production plants included in the deal are in Grand Rapids, Mich., Lemont, Ill. and North Kansas City, Mo.

According to European news sources, the value of the combined acquisitions was about $550 million.

Arkema has its American headquarters in Prince of Prussia, Penn., just outside Philadelphia. CCP’s corporate offices had been in Kansas City, Mo.

According to the company, the Saukville plant has been one of the world’s leading producers of gel coating.

Arkema officials said the goal of the acquisition was to strengthen the company’s global position in the coatings field and strengthen its acrylics segment.

They said they also hoped to make the switch as issue-free as possible for customers, suppliers and employees.

“This is a really exciting time for us,” said David Murry, Arkema’s director of human resources, who kept close tabs on the transition at the Saukville facility.

“It is obviously a very complex situation involving four facilities, but the transition has been going very well. This acquisition now makes coatings resins our largest business unit worldwide.”

From a local perspective, Murry said it has been “business as usual” since Arkema stepped in.

“We are impressed by the people in Saukville. We retained all 34 employees in exactly the same positions they had under TOTAL, and haven’t seen any turnover in personnel,” he said.

After evaluating plant operations, Murry said, the company may add positions in the areas of safety and supply chain to bring operations in line with standards at other Arkema facilities.

Corporate officials were on hand for the first day of the transition, explaining company strategies, policies and benefits and even hosting a company picnic complete with prize giveaways.

“The Day One celebration was our way of saying welcome to the Arkema family,” Murry said.

He said Arkema is aware of the strides CCP had made to be responsive to community concerns, and said the company intends to follow that lead.

That open attitude included the creation of a Community Advisory Committee, which held regular meetings to address local concerns, initially spurred by ongoing complaints about odor and noise coming from the plant. Eventually, the committee was used as a way to keep neighborhood leaders aware of operational changes and environmental initiatives.

“We definitely intend to continue the community input process. We have already been in touch with some of the committee members and got a lot of feedback,” Murry said.

He said the company also intends to work closely with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, as did officials with CCP under TOTAL’s ownership.

The company became a pioneer in the reduction of its use of toxic chemicals, and entered into a series of cooperative agreements with the DNR.

Murry said he is uncertain whether those prior agreements remain in place under the new ownership, but the spirit of ecological sensitivity remains.

“Arkema has a long history of environmental awareness and I am sure that will continue in Saukville,” Murry said.

As for the plant’s future under Arkema, he said management always has an eye on potential development.

“There’s always a hope for growth. Hopefully, we will be in a position to act when there are positive signs in the U.S. and global economies,” Murry said.

Arkema’s global outlook is reflected in its corporate motto, which now appears on the sign in front of the Saukville plant — “The world is our inspiration.”

Arkema was created in 2004 in a reorganization of TOTAL’s chemical branch.

The company has facilities in more than 40 countries in Europe, Asia and North America, with an estimated 13,800 employees.

In June, Arkema entered the French stock exchange of mid-sized companies — the CAC 60.

The Missouri-based CCP acquired the Saukville plant from Freeman Chemical in 1990, and operated it as a joint venture with TOTAL before this summer’s sale.

 
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