The proposed renovation and expansion of Dow’s sulfuryl flouride plant could also mean the end of a long downward trend in employment at the plant.
Dow spokesman Scott Anderson said California Dow officials are seeking Pittsburg Planning Commission approval of the 4,000-square-foot combination renovation and expansion project in hopes of proving to Dow directors that the company “can still do business in California.”
“The decision hasn’t been made yet whether the project will be built in Pittsburg or not,” Anderson said.
But he said the company needs to replace aging equipment the company has used to produce sulfuryl flouride in Pittsburg since 1974, and is examining a potential new market for the product in agriculture.
Anderson said the federal Environmental Protection Agency is phasing out in coming years the use of methyl bromide, a pesticide used in strawberry farming, and sulfuryl flouride is the best replacement.
Sulfuryl flouride has previously been used mainly to fumigate buildings by professional exterminators, who cover entire buildings in bag-like envelopes and pump in the chemical in gas form.
Anderson said it is early to talk about increased employment resulting from the expansion, but said Pittsburg would gain perhaps 20 to 25 new jobs if the facility is built.
Over the last 11 years, Anderson said, employment at the Pittsburg Dow facility has fallen from about 900 to approximately 350. The new plant, he said, represents a rare opportunity for growth amid a very competitive environment in the chemical industry.
Brad Nail, Pittsburg’s economic and redevelopment coordinator, said the city welcomes the project.
“We are very excited about a possible expansion of Dow because it will bring in a lot of jobs and it will kind of reverse a trend that’s been going on for the last 10 years,” Nail said.
Nail said any jobs created at the plant would likely pay well. The region has plenty of service jobs that offer lower pay, he said, but jobs that allow workers to support a family are harder to attract.
Anderson said some new permits are required for the expanded plant, but not too many since the chemical is already produced at the site. Newer, more efficient equipment will likely mean a reduction in emissions from the plant, according to Anderson.
The Pittsburg Planning Commission is to review Jan. 8 a request for a height variance for the project. City codes limit industrial facilities to 95 feet in height, while the Dow project would rise about 125 feet.
The planning commission meets at 7:30 p.m. at Pittsburg City Hall at 65 Civic Ave.