Eastman Chemical Invests $1.3B in Kingsport, TN Plant
Eastman Chemical Co. in Kingsport, TN
Eastman Chemical Co. will spend $1.3 billion over the next five years at its Kingsport, TN manufacturing facility.
With Eastman Chemical Co.’s announcement in 2007 that it will invest $1.3 billion over the next five years in its Kingsport manufacturing facility, Tennessee’s position as a prime locale for chemical operations was again validated. Eastman will spend about $265 million annually on “Project Reinvest,” which will bolster the operation’s technology, infrastructure, production capabilities and workforce prowess. Eastman is the crown jewel among the 280 or so chemical manufacturers in Tennessee, which employ more than 26,000 and turn out some $13.3 billion in product annually. A manufacturer and marketer of chemicals, fibers and plastics, Eastman is a Fortune 500 company with annual revenue of $6.8 billion. The company employs 10,500, including about 7,000 in Kingsport, where it is headquartered and was founded in 1920. Eastman officials said new tax credits offered by the state, which could be worth $100 million over a decade, swayed the decision to invest in Kingsport versus other locations. A key component of Eastman’s five-year investment strategy is a partnership with Northeast State Technical Community College to train a new generation of mechanics, lab analysts and chemical operators. “The goal of our partnership with Northeast State is to have a labor market available to provide businesses and industries in the Northeast Tennessee region with people who have the foundational technical skills for the advanced manufacturing jobs in the region,” says Parker Smith, vice president and general manager for Eastman worldwide manufacturing support. The state is pumping additional dollars into the training initiative with the understanding that other companies may hire workers trained by the program and that best practices of the program will be shared with other state colleges and universities. “At some point in the future, I would like to see a high percentage of our maintenance hires coming to us through this program,” Smith says. “My belief is the tech schools are the experts we should be leaning on to do the job-related training. This will provide employees who are much farther along in their capabilities, which is going to be critical as large numbers of experienced craftspeople leave due to retirement.”