A ribbon cutting was held a few weeks ago, and plans are for that expansion at Wacker Charleston will begin in 2019.
Site Manager Mary Beth Hudson said advised listeners not to think that is the last new building project at the Charleston facility, because there is still plenty of land for expansion in future years.
Hudson spoke to members of the Rotary Club of Cleveland Tuesday, and gave a synopsis of the local plant, what it produces, and what the market is for polysilicon, which is created at Wacker in Charleston.
The site manager, who also serves as vice president of polysilicon for Wacker Chemical Corporation, spoke afterward about why Charleston was selected as a location for the company’s facility.
“I mentioned the importance of power and reliable power and we have the ability to receive that from two power plants here. Also, one of our main raw materials — chlorine — pipeline-supplied by Olin (in Charleston),” Hudson explained.
“And then, this area from a transportation standpoint, is a good area, especially because we export our product, so it is pretty easy to get to port,” she added.
Hudson said that along with these reasons for locating around the Hiwassee River and Interstate 75, there was another factor in selection of Charleston as the site for the plant.
“It is the workforce, and trainable workforce, that is definitely a plus and the ability to draw from a population that was either trained or trainable, and we were able to work with Cleveland State and Chattanooga State on training,” she said.
The available workforce will be important in the future, as Wacker expands its Charleston site.
“We are projected for start up in the first half of 2019,” Hudson said of the expansion. “We broke ground a few months ago, and it will take a couple of years to get online.”
Hudson said that when Wacker first began construction at the present facility, it took a few years to go into operation. So, the time it will take for this second phase to be ready for operation is not unusual.
She told the Rotarians that this expansion may not be the last.
“When we built the plant, and we have over 500 acres there, we had the vision of future expansions,” Hudson said. “So we have a site master plan, and we have mapped out locations for potential expansions as business warrants.”
Hudson added that Wacker Charleston is becoming more involved in the community, as recently seen in the company’s promotion of the First Friday Festivals over the summer.
“The first phase was construction and commissioning startup, and most of the focus was internal in trying to become operational,” she stated. “Now that we are operational, we can also focus on being a good corporate citizen and being more of a part of the community.”
Her presentation to the Rotary Club explained what polysilicon is, and what it is mainly used for. She said that polysilicon is the main base material in solar panels, which is becoming more a part of energy creation all across the world. In fact, she said that this type of energy use doubled from 2015 to 2016, and in 2016, was named the top source of new energy in the United States.
The 19-year veteran of working with Wacker came to the Charleston plant from the Wacker facility in Kentucky. She said she still has a love for Kentucky, but has adapted to Bradley County and Southeast Tennessee, and loves the area. She said she feels the community has welcomed Wacker with open arms, as have good people who work or will work for Wacker in Charleston, She said that she is excited about the future of Wacker in Bradley County.
The Rotary Club of Cleveland meets each Tuesday at noon at the Museum Center at Five Points. Special guest speaker for next Tuesday, Aug. 15, will be U.S. Sen.Bob Corker.