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Chemical company to invest $225M, bring 165 jobs

ERIC SHELTON/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Elevance Renewable Sciences CEO K’Lynne Johnson and Gov. Haley Barbour address the media after announcing plans for a new facility in Natchez Tuesday afternoon at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center.

NATCHEZ — The first six Adams County employees of Elevance Renewable Sciences sat in the front row of a seemingly hot but eager crowd Tuesday when Gov. Haley Barbour announced Adams County will soon be home to 165 permanent jobs and 300 construction jobs.

The six former Delta BioFuels employees were hired Friday after Elevance purchased Delta BioFuels’ 800,000-square-foot facility for its first North American location. The company pledged to invest more than $225 million in the area.

“It’s exciting (to be involved in) something new, a new challenge,” said Elevance’s new chemical operator, Gary Caston of Natchez.

“It’s really going to be something different.”

Elevance intends to break ground as early as October of this year to expand and convert the oil refinery into a biorefinery and derivatives operation in a multi-phase project that will roll out in phases over the next five years.

Elevance Vice President of Manufacturing John Harvey speaks about the future facility in Natchez. Harvey said that he plans to closely supervise construction in Natchez later this year.

Headquartered in Bolingbrook, Ill., Elevance creates specialty chemicals from natural oils using a patented technology called olefin metathesis, a process that won the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Using the process, the facility near the Adams County Port will manufacture “high performance ingredients” for use in personal care products, detergents, fuels, lubricants and other specialty chemical markets.

Elevance’s process has bridged renewable energy with petrochemical industry, Elevance CEO, K’Lynne Johnson said.

Examples of products that use the ingredients were displayed on a table near refreshments at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center, where the announcement and reception was hosted. They included Victoria’s Secret Pink lotion in cucumber and lily, Dow Corning cosmetics additives and sunscreen and Glade candles.

“I think my wife has that,” District 5 Supervisor S.E. “Spanky” Felter said, pointing to the products on display.

County Board of Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said the 165 jobs Elevance will create could create three times as many indirect jobs in the community.

“It is going to have tremendous spin offs,” Grennell said.

“They’ll need local suppliers, be making products, and maybe looking at (people) to connect the product to the market.”

An upsurge in construction employees coming to town from all over the region could also increase commerce in general in the area, he said.

Johnson, who spoke alongside Barbour and local and state officials at the event, said many of the jobs will be filled locally.

“A few of the universities and technical colleges (should provide) an ongoing pipeline of capable employees,” Johnson said

The area colleges and opportunities for training programs through those resources helped attract Elevance, who has a joint venture in Asia, to Adams County, Johnson said.

Other assets helped, too, Johnson said.

“The site is ideally located on the river,” she said.

Railway access and the Adams County Port will also be an important part of the project, Barbour said, since feedstock, such as soybean, canola and palm, that will be used in the product will be transported on the Mississippi River.

Negotiations with Elevance call for the port to receive major upgrades as well, including liquid loading and vapor recovery capabilities.

The Adams County Port, roadways near the port and the railroad will receive $6.5 million in infrastructure upgrades.

The port will fund $1.5 million of the work, the board of supervisors will provide $3 million and the Mississippi Development Authority will fund $2 million in grants.

“Once (upgrades) are complete, (Adams County) is likely to have the best facility for liquid loading (along the river),” Grennell said.

The updated port, Grennell said, could likely help attract new industries.

In a second phase, the company has pledged to invest $7 million in the port for additional upgrades, Russ said.

“It’s tremendous when you fully realize (Adams County will have) the best liquid loader probably on the river,” Russ said.

Russ said the $7 million investment in the port is one for which the public could enjoy the benefits.

“That’s like giving us a hotel and (saying), ‘Just rent out the rooms when we don’t need them,’” Russ said.

MDA worked with company and local officials to help facilitate the project. Through the Mississippi Industry Incentive Financing Revolving Fund, MDA provided grant funds for the port, as well as a $25 million loan to the company.

“Today is truly an exciting project, and I look forward to you learning more,” Grennell said. “We truly feel good today.”

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