Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

December 9, 2013

FMC investing in Middleport plant

BY JOE OLENICK joe.olenick@lockportjournal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — FMC is making a $5 million investment in its Middleport plant on Telegraph Road.

The company’s Agricultural Solutions division has been seeing an increase in business demand, necessitating the need for more work and capacity at the Middleport facility. The facility is a formulations plant which mixes and packages FMC products.

FMC invested $1.6 million this year in Middleport and expects to spend close to $3 million next year. And that investment is a great sign of confidence in the plant, said Manager Noel Parker.

”The growth has been exciting for us,” Parker said. “It’s a good amount of money.”

Insecticides, herbicides and other agricultural products mixed and packaged at FMC Middleport are delivered for nearly 100 different crops in more than 75 different countries.

The investment will be to support the new product lines and cover the costs of changing the Middleport facility to a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week operation. FMC Middleport hasn’t done that in a long time, the last being well before the plant turned over to a packaging and mixing location in 1985.

Switching over to a 24/7 operation isn’t something FMC usually does, but the demand has grown so much, Parker said.

“Normally we don’t unless we have to,” she said. “But we will and stay there (at 24/7) until at least April.”

Part of that demand is coming from South America, where farming is growing exponentially. There’s a need for fungicides in Canada as well, where recently a $5 million order was placed.

“There’s a huge demand,” Parker said.

The investment has added seven new employees and could lead to seven new workers over the next year. Safety is another part of the investment, as several improvements are being made in plant safety and compliance with regulations.

Parker, who has run FMC Middleport for the last year, spent 11 years with Dow Chemical, the last year running a plant in Illinois. That plant ended up being the opposite of FMC, as it had to close.

Telling the employees was one of the “worst days of my career,” Parker said. So telling employees the plant is growing led to a much better day for Parker.

“That’s a much better message,” she said.

Parker said the challenge is now how to remain sustainable while growing. A packaging and mixing plant also needs to be flexible, Parker added. Some business is the result of unexpected events or orders, such as what happened in California this year.

Some kind of fungus developed because of a drought, so a lot of fungicide was needed in a hurry. FMC Middleport needed to adapt quickly to answer the call, Parker said.

“You have to be careful as you grow,” she said.

And, since FMC works closely with the Village of Middleport, good news for the plant is good news for residents. The investment shows Telegraph Road is a vital piece to FMC’s future, Parker said.

“We’re here and we’re here to stay,” she said.

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.