logo

Eastman investing $1.6 billion in Tennessee headquarters

By: Frank Esposito

June 13, 2013

Eastman Chemical Co. is embarking on a seven-year, $1.6 billion expansion of its headquarters site in Kingsport, Tenn.

The expansion — known as Project Inspire — will create 300 new jobs and will include a new office building as well as increased warehouse capacity, technology expansions and improvements to the site's infrastructure, energy efficiency and safety and environmental performance, officials said. The project is expected to be completed in 2020 — the 100th anniversary of Eastman's presence in Kingsport.

"This represents a landmark capital investment that will modernize and expand our largest manufacturing site and corporate campus here in Kingsport," Chairman and CEO Jim Rogers said in a May 29 news release. "I can think of no better way to honor our long-term commitment to this site and surrounding community than through this very significant investment in our future."

Eastman employs 7,000 — just over half of its global total — in Kingsport and ranks as one of the state's largest employers. In the release, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said that Eastman "has been crucial to the state's economy, growing into a global brand, and today's announcement means they will continue to grow right here where they started."

The state will provide partial funding for the corporate campus expansion and road infrastructure improvements, as well as a grant to meet advanced manufacturing training needs at the state's Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing in Kingsport. In a June 12 phone interview, Eastman spokeswoman Tracy Kilgore said that the firm "will be able to maximize its tax credits" for the project.

Kilgore added that Eastman's Tritan-brand copolyester business also will benefit from the expansion, but no details were available. Administration and production for Tritan both are based in Kingsport.

The new expansion was announced not long after Eastman completed Project Reinvest, a $1.3 billion site improvement project that it launched in Kingsport in 2007.

Eastman Kodak Co. established a production site in 1920 when it needed a domestic source for raw materials used in its photography business. Eastman Chemical was spun off as a separate company in 1990.

Eastman has annual sales of about $9 billion, including its recent purchase of specialty chemicals maker Solutia. In 2012, sales in Eastman's adhesives and plasticizers unit grew almost 4 percent, but sales in the firm's advanced materials unit — including Tritan and Solutia's polyvinyl butral (PVB) products slipped almost 3 percent.

Combined sales were flat in the first quarter of 2013, but Eastman's profit jumped almost 60 percent to almost $250 million when compared to the same quarter in 2012.

Eastman's per-share stock price began the year around $68 and has bounced between $65 and $74. It was near $69 in early trading June 12.