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BASF opposed early in Evansville, late in Terre Haute.

Would you like a well-known West German firm to invest $150 million in a new paint plant in your area? If you say "yes," you're more likely to be from Terre Haute than from Evansville.

It's easy to understand why three Midwestern sites--near Posey County near Evansville, Vigo County near Terre Haute and Portsmouth, Ohio--looked attractive to BASF Corp., a West German chemical company, as a place to build a new automotive paint and coatings plant. BASF spokesman Jerry Buchanan says the sites feature flat terrain, abundant water and the Midwestern way of life. In addition, they are close to automotive plants.

Terre Haute is enamored with the prospect of having the plant. "They (BASF) are one of the highest-quality and one of the largest companies in the world," exclaims Pat O'Leary, director of Terre Haute's Alliance for Growth and Progress. "It would mean high-quality jobs and high-paying jobs. It'd also complement our industrial base." Portsmouth also has given the company a "favorable" reaction without opposition, Buchanan says.

Evansville was less infatuated, even before BASF announced in early September that the land in Posey County had proven unsuitable for the plant. After BASF disclosed that hazardous waste from other plants would be shipped in, Evansville Mayor Frank McDonald's stance, originally supportive, swung to neutral. McDonald says the Evansville community produced considerably more opposition than support.

The plant site, approximately 1,000 acres, was to be chosen late this year. Elimination of Evansville may, according to the company, require reappraisal of sites eliminated from consideration earlier. Forty acres will be used for the paint and coatings division and its hazardous-waste incinerator and landfill. Ed Madzy, the new plant's environmental engineer, says at first most of the hazardous waste would come from a half-dozen Midwestern states. Construction is expected to take two years, with production--and jobs for 500 people--starting in 1992.

Terre Haute Mayor Pete Chalos likes the plan. "We've studied them (BASF) thoroughly. They're a good employer and have a good corporate system. Any environmental questions we've had they've answered to our satisfaction."

Public opposition did not surface in Terre Haute until mid-September, when Citizens for a Clean County organized. No one was immediately concerned, a spokesman says, until they learned that toxic waste was to be buried in a 20- to 40-acre landfill. Evansville's major opposition developed early. University of Southern Indiana professor Howard Dunn, chairman of ChemQuery, says the BASF plant would have been a major source of hydrocarbons that would mix with the nitrogen oxides emitted by the nearby A.B. Brown Power Plant in summer.

Public acceptance does play a part in the final decision, Buchanan says: "We do want the community to be comfortable with us." Company spokesmen deny that the Posey County site's elimination had anything to do with local opposition.
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Title Annotation:Briefs; Indiana
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Oct 1, 1988
Words:466
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