West Louisville’s Rubbertown neighborhood — hard hit by job cuts in recent years — finally might be getting a bit of good employment news.
E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co., the Wilmington, Del.-based chemical company, is considering an expansion of its long-running Freon plant at 4200 Camp Ground Road. It closed its neighboring Neoprene synthetic rubber factory in March.
Du Pont’s 300,000-square-foot West End facility currently employs 172 workers and produces Freon, or vinyl fluoride, a refrigerant.
The vinyl fluoride made at the Louisville plant also is a component of Tedlar, a film used in the aerospace, construction and other industries. Tedlar also is used in the production of photovoltaic solar panels.
Du Pont is exploring a 78,000-square-foot expansion of its Rubbertown plant to increase its capacity to create Tedlar.
The potential expansion, introduced at an Aug. 28 meeting of the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority in Frankfort, would create 47 jobs for Kentucky residents, with an annual payroll of $2.1 million, within two years of the expansion’s completion.
The new jobs would have an average hourly wage of $22.39 an hour.
Perhaps more significant, du Pont’s project could include several components and might result in an investment of as much as $178.4 million for the Delaware company.
According to the application the company filed with the authority, the expansion would cost $8.1 million. The company also said its investment would include spending $43 million to buy equipment and about $125.8 million on building fixtures.
More details coming next week
Du Pont officials had little to say about the possible expansion. The company released a statement from Louisville plant manager Gerald Thomas.
“Du Pont has begun evaluating options for capacity expansion plans for Tedlar films for use in the photovoltaic market,” Thomas said in the statement. “We do not have authorization to release expansion plans at this time. No further details are available.”
Leslie Beckhoff, du Pont’s regional manager of public relations in Delaware, said she expects further details of the project to be released next week. She declined to provide additional information.
Du Pont received preliminary approval from the KEDFA board for $500,000 in state tax incentives for up to 10 years. It also was granted approval for $1 million in state sales tax refunds.
Once, an employment leader
Du Pont, which traces its history to 1802, trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol DD.
The company’s roots in Louisville go back to 1941, and it once was one of the city’s largest manufacturers.
Du Pont had 2,400 local workers in the 1960s. They made Neoprene synthetic rubber, which contributed to the Rubbertown name.
The factory experienced tragedy when a series of explosions rocked it in 1965, killing 12 people and closing the plant for three weeks.
A 1984 Business First list of the top manufacturing firms, based on employment, ranked du Pont No. 10 with 1,000 workers.
That number dropped dramatically during the past 24 years, before bottoming out under 180 when du Pont closed its Neoprene plant in March.
The company was not large enough to make the list of the city’s 41 largest manufacturers.
Rubbertown has taken its hits
The potential du Pont project would buck the trend of manufacturing jobs leaving the Rubbertown neighborhood.
Most recently, Philadelphia-based chemical producer Rohm and Haas Co. announced plans in June to cut 220 of 353 positions by the middle of next year at its Rubbertown plant as part of a corporate belt-tightening strategy.
Additional information for this story was gathered by Business First staff writers Kevin Eigelbach and Ben Adkins.