OCI Chemicals celebrated its 10th anniversary Thursday with a visit from Gov. Robert Bentley and an announcement that it is considering an expansion of its 40-employee plant.
Bentley’s audience included many from South Korea, where OCI is based.
OCI Co. President Greg Baik said the Decatur plant is small by OCI standards. He said the company is studying the market to determine whether an expansion is possible.
“We have plenty of space here,” he said.
Kirk Milling, president of OCI’s U.S. division, said expansion was likely.
“We’re trying to grow our export business,” Milling said, especially in Latin America.
Currently, OCI-Decatur’s sole product is sodium percarbonate, a non-chlorine bleaching agent used in many detergents. Baik said he hopes for an expansion that adds other chemicals to the plant’s production.
“We’re looking at the business issues, but I would like to see it happen,” Baik said of expansion.
Bentley said he attended the event to emphasize the state’s appreciation for existing business.
“It’s so appropriate to celebrate companies that are already here,” Bentley said. “Most of the jobs in Alabama are not from the companies we recruit and that get us on magazine covers, but from businesses like OCI that have been here awhile.”
The governor shook hands with and talked to every employee. He concluded one — Michael Vick — was a second cousin.
“My cousin is here, and I had never met him,” Bentley said.
Bentley expressed astonishment that the plant could manage a million work-hours without a single lost-time injury.
“How in the world can you do that?” he asked the employees. “It seems like someone would trip or something.”
One employee quipped, “We just move real slow.”
Not too slow, apparently. The Decatur plant produces 60,000 tons a year of sodium percarbonate.
Bentley spoke highly of state Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, and Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, before the speech. He praised a recent bill by Orr that would give tax credits to small employers who hire additional employees, and a Hammon bill that would limit illegal immigrants.
Bentley said he did not expect Hammon’s bill to discourage foreign companies like OCI.
“We’re not afraid of that,” Bentley said. “We’re going to make sure it’s done right.”