Tennessee Corporate Moves

German Chemical Giant to Build $1-Billion Polysilicon Plant in Tennessee

Wacker Chemie AG, the Munich-based chemical company, has announced plans to build a $1-billion polysilicon plant in Bradley County, Tennessee.

The new chemical facility, expected to create more than 500 new jobs in the region, is the third mega-project landed by Tennessee in the past eight months. Earlier this year, Hemlock Semiconductor announced that it would invest $2.5 billion in a new semiconductor plant near Clarksville, TN, and last summer Volkswagon chose a site just north of Chattanooga for its return to car manufacturing in the U.S.

The new Wacker plant will manufacture hyperpure polycrystalline silicon, a primary component used in the manufacture of solar panels and semiconductors. The development announcement was jointly made by Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber, Dr. Rudolph Staudigl, president and CEO of Wacker Chemie AG, and Dr. Ingomar Kovar, president of Wacker Chemical Corporation, Adrian, MI.

“This announcement further enhances Tennessee’s growing reputation as an innovation center in the development and manufacture of clean energy technologies,” said Bredesen. “I appreciate Wacker Chemie’s investment in Tennessee and its recognition of the productivity of Tennessee workers, and I’m very pleased the company believes this is the best place to enhance its position in this growing economic sector.” “We expect polysilicon demand from the solar and semiconductor industries to further increase in the coming years,” said Dr. Staudigl. “Purchasing this site is an essential prerequisite to quickly build up additional production capacities outside the euro zone in line with projected market trends and growth in demand.”

The facility will be located in southeastern Tennessee on a 550-acre greenfield site near the Hiwassee Industrial Park in the Charleston community of Bradley County. “Under Governor Bredesen’s leadership, we’ve developed a strategy for the creation of ‘green collar’ jobs in Tennessee,” said Kisber. “That strategy has resulted in more than $2.5 billion dollars in capital investment and over a thousand new jobs being announced in the past year and we truly believe Tennessee is well-positioned for the growth of a sustainable economy in the U.S.”

In addition to the state’s strong business climate, Wacker officials cited Tennessee’s well-developed infrastructure and the cooperative partnership of state agencies, local government, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the local chamber of commerce. As part of its investment, Wacker will qualify for statutory incentives on the state and local level, including the FastTrack Infrastructure Development Program, the FastTrack Job Training Assistance Program and the Super Jobs Tax Credit. The strong partnership between the state of Tennessee and TVA will allow the company to take advantage of industrial electricity rates approximately half those found in Germany.

Wacker Chemie AG currently is the world’s second largest producer of hyperpure polycrystalline silicon. Wacker has manufactured polysilicon for more than 50 years and has steadily expanded its capacity to meet rising solar-silicon demand in the photovoltaic industry.

Two months ago, Gov. Bredesen and Kisber joined with the chief executive officers of Hemlock Semiconductor and its parent company, Dow Corning, to announce Hemlock Semiconductor’s plan to locate a polycrystalline silicon manufacturing operation at the Commerce Park megasite in Clarksville, TN.

The facility, which will produce a primary component used in the manufacture of solar panels and other energy equipment, will mean an investment of $1.2 to $2.5 billion dollars by the company and the employment of up to 900 people within five to seven years. If plans are fully implemented, the project would become the largest announced corporate capital investment in Tennessee history.

“We live in a time when a growing reliance on sustainable forms of energy is leading to growth rates of 30 percent to 40 percent annually for the solar industry,” said Kisber. “This announcement means Tennessee will play a leading role in the growth of solar technology for many years to come.”

When complete, the Clarksville facility will have the capacity to manufacture up to 10,000 metric tons of polycrystalline silicon annually but is being designed with the capability to manufacture up to 34,000 metric tons. The plant will occupy the entire 1,215-acre Commerce Park megasite and the company plans to acquire an additional 947 acres adjacent to the site for additional build-out and to provide buffer space.

Volkswagon, which closed its last U.S. car plant, in Pennsylvania, in 1988, recently reaffirmed its commitment to build a $1-billion auto assembly plant near Chattanooga. The Tennessee site was selected by the German auto giant in July after intense competition with locations in Alabama and Michigan.

The decision by Volkswagon was seen by some analysts as a bit of a silver lining in the generally depressing story of the plummeting U.S. dollar: the corresponding rise of the euro dramatically increasing the cost of manufacturing cars in Europe, leading overseas car makers to take a close look at shifting production to the United States. The increasing cost of European car production was cited as a major factor in VW’s decision to locate its new plant in the U.S. The choice of the Tennessee site was heralded by Bredesen, who held aloft front-page headlines declaring “It’s Chattanooga!”

When it is fully operational in 2011, the new plant will employ 2,000 people directly as well as offering business to hundreds of suppliers. The new facility will eventually have an annual capacity of 150,000 vehicles and will be used to build a new midsized vehicle for the U.S. market.

VW said its decision also was based on a range of factors including financial incentives offered by the state linked to job creation, investment and training.

VW told Tennessee officials last month that despite the dramatic downturn in the global auto industry due to the recession—which has seen demand shrink to less than half of worldwide capacity—the German automaker is moving forward on the new U.S. plant.

Washington, Rhea Counties Win Quality Awards

West Chester Medical Center, which broke ground in West Chester, OH in July 2006, is scheduled to open its doors in May 2009. The facility is the first new full-service hospital in the Greater Cincinnati area in 25 years.

Part of the Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati, the 380,000-square-foot facility will be located near the borders of Butler and Warren counties.

The hospital will help fulfill a need for close-to-home health care in these rapidly growing communities. By the time the hospital opens, the populations of these counties will already have grown more than 10 percent, compared with the population level at the time of the ground-breaking for the project in 2006.

Once fully operational, the 160-bed hospital (which has a 300-bed future expansion plan) will employ nearly 1000 workers. Officials do not expect the economic downturn to negatively impact the hospital’s usage. “People cannot control when they get sick. Illness is always going to be there. So even when there are bad economic times, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to impact the medical field,” says Stephanie Savicki of the Health Alliance.

Located off Cox Road on the University Pointe medical campus, West Chester Medical Center is equipped with the latest technology, providing services which will include inpatient and outpatient diagnostics and treatment, imaging and a 24-hour full-service emergency department.