It is not exactly the gold rush, but news that a new company will reopen the long-idle former Mobil Chemical Co. plant in Woodland, Calif., to make plastic bags is a bright nugget of renewal for the area. Woodland Poly, a division of California's newly formed Pan Ocean Inc., has begun production in the Mobil plant, and has hired some of the 200 workers who lost their jobs when the oil and chemical giant shut down the plant in March 1995.
``We are happy that this plant was not part of the deal last year that made the Mobil Plastic Division a part of Tenneco,'' said Thom Chin, sales and marketing manager for Woodland Poly. ``This planthad been shut down prior to that as part of Mobil's downsizing efforts, and while it was a sad day in this community, it gave us the chance to get the facility going and to hire back people who had worked their whole lives for Mobil.''
The new company will make plastic bags for food, ice, produce and garbage, as well as converting linear low density polyethylene stretch film. The 241,000-square-foot-plant employs 30 now and will have 70 workers by the end of the year.
The company has ordered two Battenfeld Gloucester stretch film extrusion lines, and expects to have them running by July or August, alongside the nine older lines that were in the plant when Mobil closed it in 1994. Chin said he expects the plant's capacity to be about 35 million pounds per year with the addition of the lines.
The opening has boosted a spirit of civic resurgence the company hopes to parlay into growth, to become one of the leading bag and stretch film makers in the country.
``The reopening of this plant is great news for our community,'' said Gary Sandy, mayor of Woodland, and one of the prime movers behind the establishment of the company. ``Our town was devastated in 1994 with the successive closings of the Mobil plant, and of a large Contadina tomato processing facility.''
He said the Woodland region depended heavily on agricultural-related businesses, including tomatoes and other vegetable processing, noting the town's economic base had been supported for years by the Mobil plastic plant.
``When both of them closed at roughly the same time, many of our citizens found themselves without the jobs they had had for many years,'' Sandy said.
He said the city has adapted to the idea that the tomato plant probably will not reopen, and has a long-range plan to diversify and re-establish its industrial base.
Woodland Poly will use a direct sales force to work with distributors and brokers to build a network of customers in the supermarket, food-service, and industrial markets in 13 western states, many of which are based within a 100-mile radius of the plant.
Chin said Pan Ocean is owned in part by two Taiwanese companies that make PVC pipe in the Far East. He declined to name the companies, but said plans are to utilize the expertise of the former workers at the Mobil plant to build the new business.