Dow to eliminate 150 research jobs in South Charleston

By Clark Davis and Scott Finn

Dow Chemical Co. announced Tuesday it would cut approximately 150 jobs at its South Charleston facility, mostly in research and development. 

Allan Fowler, who manages Dow’s West Virginia operations, said the number of research jobs would be cut from 250 to 100 over the next two years. The jobs are some of the best in the valley, with salaries of $100,000 or more per year. 

It’s part of a larger downsizing of the company that involved 1,000 jobs worldwide. Many of the R&D jobs are being shifted overseas. It’s also part of a trend that began in 1999, when Dow announced it was buying Union Carbide, which owned the South Charleston operations. 

In 1999, Union Carbide employed more than 2,400 people in the Kanawha Valley, including 1,900 at the tech center.  After these cuts take affect, Dow will employ an estimate 550 people in the Kanawha Valley, including 100 at the tech center. The cuts apparently do not affect Dow’s remaining manufacturing jobs in the Kanawha Valley. 

Several groups are trying to revive the tech center, including the Mid-Atlantic Technology Research and Innovation Center, West Virginia University, West Virginia State University, and the Chemical Alliance Zone. But few new jobs have been created at the former tech center. 

“Decisions like these are not easy, but they will remain a fundamental part of our strategic agenda, maintaining a solid foundation of efficiency and efficacy as we aggressively build the Company to deliver long-term shareholder value,” said Dow CEO Andrew Liveris. “We recognize the uncertainty and anxiety that these decisions will cause our employees, their families and those living in the communities near our sites; and we will work hard to minimize the impact of these changes on those affected.” 

Kanawha County Commissioner Kent Carper said Dow bought out Union Carbide with the intent of shutting it down. “Unfortunately, these were not unexpected,” Carper said. “Pretty much cut after cut, a lot of talk about doing something with the research park, a lot of promises, but unfortunately they never occurred.” 

Carper said the Kanawha Valley has lost more than 20,000 chemical jobs since the 1960s. They’re the type of well-paying jobs that are hard to replace. It’s been estimated that we’ve lost between 20,000 and 30,000 direct chemical jobs, just in Kanawha County.

“The county has lost tremendous brainpower,” Carper said. “The chemical companies in the 50s, 60s, and 70s encouraged their employees to do civic-type activity. So we’ve lost that. We’ve lost the jobs, and then there’s the spin-off jobs. It’s been estimated that you’ll lost between seven and ten jobs on spin-off. So it’s a huge loss.”

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