Sunoco may no longer turn crude oil into gasoline at their Marcus Hook plant, but plastics manufacturing will continue in Delaware County. The Corbett Administration has invested $15 million dollars to keep parts of the Sunoco refinery operating. The plant shut its doors earlier this year, laying off about 400 workers.
The Brazilian petrochemical company Braskem bought parts of the plant in June. The Braskem polypropylene plant sits right across the street from the Sunoco refinery in Marcus Hook. For years it used the refinery byproduct, propylene, to make nuggets of polypropylene, which get turned into everything from plastic water bottles to credit cards.
But with the refinery gone, 119 people at the Braskem plant could have lost their jobs too, people like Dan Crawford.
“It’s a good feeling to know I’m on the inside looking out instead of the outside looking in,” said Crawford. “It’s very much hard times and I don’t want to be part of it.”
Braskem’s purchase of Sunoco’s propylene splitter allows them to continue making plastics. Gov. Tom Corbett stood with Braskem executives in Marcus Hook on Wednesday to make the announcement. Corbett says he wants to make Pennsylvania the energy state.
“Between here and the western part of the state you are going to see, in 10 to 15 years, Pennsylvania returning to being a manufacturing state,” said Corbett. “All you hear about is manufacturing leaving the country and the state. Well what we have now is a story of, not only is it coming back to the country but it’s coming back to the state and that’s where we want to go.”
Braskem has also created 28 new jobs with the purchase. But that’s hardly enough to make up for about 400 jobs lost when the Marcus Hook plant shut down.
Corbett says his administration is working hard to bring the natural gas boom from the western part of the state to southeastern Pennsylvania. He hopes to convert other parts of the shuttered refinery into a natural gas processing center.
And those efforts may also require some kind of grant or tax incentive from the state at a time of stiff budget cuts.
State Rep. Margo Davidson, from Delaware County, may have been one of the few Democrats in the crowd.
“The concern is will we really get a return on our investment,” said Davidson. “And today, I’m here because we are retaining a good deal of jobs. But I’m also concerned about public sector jobs and education and how all of these tax credits are effecting education in Pennsylvania.”
The $15 million dollar state grant to Braskem is contingent on job creation and infrastructure investment.