By Christine Graf
Fort Worth-based WL Plastics, a subsidiary of Carson, Calif.-based Ineos Olefins & Polymers USA, has abandoned plans to acquire more than 25-acres of property at the former General Electric dewatering site in Fort Edward.
GE ceased operations there in 2015 after spending 8 years and approximately $1.7 billion to dredge PCB-tainted sediment from the Hudson River.
WL Plastics, one of North America’s largest manufacturers of high density polyethylene pipe, first expressed interest in the property two years ago. It would have been their ninth location.
In December 2019, the Warren-Washington County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) voted unanimously to offer the company approximately $2 million in incentives. The package included up to $871,500 in sales tax incentives and $1.19 million in property tax breaks. WL Plastics planned to invest $17 million in the property and create 50 well-paying jobs.
According to a written statement released by the company, their plans to build a new plant in Fort Edward were no longer “economically viable” a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company relies heavily on the oil and gas industries which have slowed considerably in recent months due to COVID-related industrial declines and travel restrictions.
Dave O’Brien, chairman of the IDA, said he was expecting WL Plastics to close on the property in the coming weeks. No one at the IDA was aware the deal was in jeopardy.
“I was quite a bit surprised by the phone call,” he said. “I understood that the oil and gas business was not helping them right now because that is one of their main markets, but I didn’t realize it was causing them to reevaluate their entire future plans.”
O’Brien expressed disappointment in the decision, noting the IDA believed WL Plastics was a great fit for the area.
“I think they were very sincere and excited about coming to Fort Edward,” he said. “I think they had a great market plan that would have expanded their business, but unfortunately we experienced a huge COVID-19 death that affected the Fort Edward and Washington County area.”
WL Plastics would have been an anchor tenant for the 80-acre former dewatering site. The land which was leased to GE by WCC, a real estate holding company, was turned over to the Fort Edward Local Property Development Corp. in December 2018.
“It’s a great piece of property, and it has some great assets in terms of buildings. It also has a lot of different features that most companies would love to have but wouldn’t spend money for,” he said.
“For example, the entire area is paved in asphalt. It has its own substation which will save electric users substantial amounts of money. I think that there are a lot of benefits there that some companies would love to have but couldn’t afford if they were building from scratch. I think there is about $10 million in assets there that would help any company come in. The rail service coming in and out is also very unique to the area.”
According to O’Brien, the IDA will continue to work to attract new companies to the former dewatering site as well as for other sites within the counties.
“If we go back to the history of Fort Edward and Washington County, when GE left, that took many well-paying jobs. Then we had the dewatering facility going out of use,” said O’Brien. “In the last four or five years, we have had a loss of over $100 million of assessed value.
“That’s a devastating blow to any local economy. I think what we need to do is get to an area where this is a very attractive site to many other companies.”
By Christine Graf