SABIC Innovative Plastics
SABIC Innovative Plastics donates $1.1 million-plus annually
by David Zaslawsky
BURKVILLE – Customers at discount stores and drugstores can usually find school supply lists in July. But the Lowndes County School district handles it differently.
The district’s three elementary schools hand school supply lists to SABIC Innovative Plastics. The company buys backpacks – around 300 of them – and the employees fill the backpacks with pencils, paper, pens, glue, scissors, crayons, rulers, binders and erasers, said Tom Tsekouras, general manager of SABIC Innovative Plastics.
The company expanded the program to include some middle school and high school students. Some of those students will find those pricey scientific calculators in their backpacks.
“I think what’s important to know about the backpack contribution is that the classes came and sent back thank-you notes,” said Les Butler, the company’s human resources manager. “It felt like we helped them individually as well as the school.”
When it comes to helping the schools – all the schools in the district – SABIC gives generously. The company has annually donated $300,000 to the school district since the early 1990s, Tsekouras said.
Tsekouras said the company also has provided grants to the school system and did all the landscaping in the front of Fort Deposit Elementary School.
“We also do a magic-in-chemistry display – it’s an interactive display/exhibition where we show grade-school students the things that chemistry can do in your life,” Tsekouras said. “We are trying to get people interested in going into the sciences or engineering because it’s such a vital part of what we do.”
What SABIC (pronounced SAH-BIC) does is produce Lexan resin, which is a powder that can be made into plastic pellets. The powder and plastic pellets are sold to the automotive, construction and electronics industries, which mold the plastic into materials used in numerous products.
Lexan resin is shatter-resistant, can be transparent or opaque and the company can color it, Tsekouras said.
It is so versatile that Lexan resin can be used in eye glasses, fighter jet canopies, car headlights and taillights, brake lights, turn signals, traffic lights, CDs, DVDs, cell phones, greenhouses, appliances, side and rear view mirrors in vehicles and computer parts – and that’s just for starters.
“Lexan made it to the moon,” Tsekouras said. “In 1969, the very first people to set foot on the moon – their visors were made of Lexan. Neil Armstrong was protected by a Lexan visor.”
But as Tsekouras noted, none of the products listed above are manufactured at the company’s facility in Burkeville.
“We ship the base resin around the world,” he said. “Two-thirds of the resin we make we put into sea containers and ship to our compounding plants in Asia and South America. We serve the North American market and some custom material and send it over to Asia as well.”
One of the company’s major growth areas is the automotive industry, where its resin will reduce the overall weight of the vehicles, translating to better fuel economy.
“We take our core Lexan and we put a glass coating on the outside of it so it is scratch-resistant,” Tsekouras said, “but at the same time, it takes 30 to 40 pounds out of a vehicle, which is huge whenever you talk about fuel economy.”
SABIC is critical to the Lowndes County economy. The company helps fund the county’s ambulance service and helped some residents on fixed incomes pay for garbage collection. Company employees not only help the school system, but some are volunteer firefighters.
As significant as the company’s contribution to the school district, it is dwarfed by SABIC’s annual donation to the Lowndes County Commission: $750,000. That amounts to a total annual donation of $1.1 million-plus. The company has donated a total of $14 million to the community since its founding in 1987.
SABIC helped residents of a Dallas County nursing home set up a courtyard, and it cleaned up after a tornado struck Prattville in February 2008.
“We had a large contingent of our employees that came together and worked with local agencies to help,” Tsekouras said.
The company also hosts Boy Scout Camporees, and at one event, more than 400 scouts from throughout Alabama attended. Some SABIC employees are active in scouting and work closely with the Tuckabachee Area Scouting Council.
“We understand that being a good citizen is directly tied with the success of our business and our employees understand this as well,” Tsekouras said. “We have great people we enjoy giving back to the community through volunteer work and through financial assistance.”