While he’s been with SABIC for 17 years, Coleman Larlee has only been General Manager?at the company’s Burkeville plant for a few months. Yet in that short time, he’s already experienced and come to appreciate the positives of doing business—and living—in the area.
Where are you from? I was born in a small mill town?in Maine, but I moved around a lot growing up. I joined the military and lived all over the world, and I was in Albany, New York, before coming here.
Share a little about what SABIC does. SABIC ranks among the world’s top petrochemical companies and is among the world’s market leaders in the production of poly- ethylene, polypropylene, advanced thermoplastics, glycols, methanol and fertilizers.
What does SABIC make here? The Burkville site produces polycarbonate, which is used extensively in the automotive industry, as well as in consumer electronics, healthcare, the construction industry and more. We are a world-scale plant, producing around two million pounds of polycarbonate resin a day, some of which is compounded for customers here in North America or Mexico. The balance of the resin is shipped to the Pacific, to our compounding plants that service the Asian market.
How many people does this plant employ? Approximately 320, plus well over 100 resident contractors.
How long has it been open? This plant broke ground in 1985 and has been open since 1987; we just celebrated our 30th anniversary. It has undergone two major expansions since initial construction. One doubled our capacity; then we quadrupled it in 1996.
What’s your impression of the area and Montgomery so far? I believe it is going to be a great place to call home. It is a beautiful area, very rich in history.?I enjoy the outdoors and am an avid motorcyclist, so I’m looking forward to exploring Alabama’s back roads. As I mentioned, I grew up in mill towns and I served in Special Forces in the Army for 16 years, so I understand the needs of industry, and I understand military communities. I think having the Air Force base here is a big plus. Military presence is always good for a community. It brings a lot of diversity and a lot of patriotism. On the business side, finding exceptional people is always a challenge, but our recent work to bring talent into the company here has been very successful. The feedback from current employees is that they are pleased with the caliber of people we are bringing in.
Any challenges on the horizon? We know we will have a huge need for new talent in the next five years. We are in a re-tooling stage from a personnel standpoint because a lot of our employees have been with us from the beginning, so they’re getting ready for well-earned retirement. Keeping all that institutional knowledge and passing that along to new people will be our next big challenge. We are a global company, a world player, and to maintain that, we need to keep our quality high and service excellent with low costs. The only way to do that is with a talented, trained workforce.
What do you think SABIC brings to the area (besides jobs)? I haven’t been here long, but I know this site strives to build a positive and sustainable relationship with the communities where we operate. Last year, the Burkville Site donated more than $1.4 million to the community through its United Way campaign, educational science programs for schoolchildren and more.
Why is SABIC so supportive of the Chamber? Obviously SABIC has significant history here, three decades of it. The partnership that we’ve created with the Chamber?is beneficial for both. It’s great to see the success here and?to see what looks like a healthy economy. The Chamber’s commitment to continued development of a quality workforce is critical to the prosperity of everyone in the area. Another important thing the Chamber does is create a network in the community where businesses can collaborate on shared challenges. It really is a catalyst for growth and really represents the area in a great light to prospective industries and businesses. It also fosters an environment where businesses can grow. We really have all the raw materials for success here.