Gov. Tomblin leads trip to Brazil to discuss cracker

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — The head of Wood County’s economic development body will accompany state leaders next week to Brazil to meet with the company looking to build an ethane cracker plant here.

Cam Huffman, president and chief executive officer of the Area Roundtable, will make the trip from Nov. 10-14 along with West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette and others.

“We’re going to meet with Braskem’s U.S. management team … as well as Braskem and Odebrecht Brazil,” Huffman said.

The trip comes almost one year after Tomblin came to Wood County to announce that Brazil-based Odebrecht, which controls Braskem, was targeting the current SABIC Innovative Plastics site in Washington, W.Va., for a multibillion-dollar petrochemical complex centered around an ethane cracker.

A release from Tomblin’s office Thursday said the five-day trip will focus on “next steps associated with the development of Project A.S.C.E.N.T,” which stands for Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise.

“As Odebrecht continues to make significant progress, I remain optimistic this opportunity will be a game changer for our economy- bringing with it thousands of construction jobs, hundreds of permanent job opportunities and countless downstream developments that will usher in a manufacturing renaissance in the Mountain State,” the governor says in the release.

Burdette noted that Odebrecht officials have been to West Virginia “countless times.”

“It was time for us to go and meet with the leadership of the company,” he said. “(We will) discuss what we need to do in the months ahead to get them to a groundbreaking.”

A subsidiary of Odebrecht, A.S.C.E.N.T. has purchased the property, secured agreements with suppliers and is moving forward with various regulatory steps, but the project isn’t a done deal yet.

“They’re systematically moving forward,” Burdette said. “One by one, they’re ticking off their to-do list.”

Huffman said he doesn’t know that next week’s meetings will yield any indicators that a final decision has been made.

“I’d be hopeful for it,” he said. “They’re still spending money, which is a good thing.”

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