By Valerie Werkmeister
and Dave Pearce
The merits of a proposed fertilizer plant coming to Posey County were discussed during the May 7 commissioner’s meeting. Economic Development Director, John Taylor, advised the commissioners he is “just waiting for the governor to say ‘yes’.” The project has been put on hold pending further review by Governor Mike Pence. Federal government officials were questioning the product the plant will produce being used in bombs against American troops abroad.
But a majority of the wind was taken out of the sails of Fatima and local economic development officials this week when Indiana Governor Mike Pence announced that the state has withdrawn all incentives that had been considered if the plant would locate in Posey County.
“I did not take this decision lightly. Economic development is important, but the safety and security of our soldiers in harm’s way is more important,” Pence said. “Throughout the past four months, our administration has worked in good faith to evaluate whether our state should be involved in this project. I am aware of Fatima Group’s efforts and cooperation with federal defense officials in recent weeks and believe their actions to be sincere.
“While we have been encouraged by promises made by Fatima Group to replace production of their current fertilizer with a more inert and less explosive formula in Pakistan, at this point in time, U.S. officials have not been able to independently confirm this fact and, as such, Indiana will not be moving forward with this project.
“Without assurances from our Defense Department that the materials which have been misused by the enemy in Afghanistan will be permanently removed from production by Fatima Group in Pakistan, I cannot in good conscience tell our soldiers and their families that this deal should move forward.”
“The proposed project by Midwest Fertilizer Company to build a $1.8 billion plant and create thousands of jobs for Hoosiers would have been a major boost to Posey County and the surrounding economy,” said State Representative Wendy McNamara. “I have worked hard to make Indiana one of the most attractive states for a company to locate and grow their business because of the strength of the Hoosier workforce and our pro-taxpayer and business-friendly tax climate. I will continue to work to bring high-paying jobs to our community, and I am confident in Posey County’s job opportunities and growth moving forward.”
Taylor pointed out during last week’s meeting that Pence recently spoke with a group of veterans who were in favor of the plant coming to the area. Taylor added that Pence also met with families of a group of wounded warriors who also gave their blessing.
According to Taylor, the company is moving forward with its plans to build here as if it has been approved.
“The company is still 100 percent committed to getting this done,” Taylor said at the meeting.
Even despite the announcement, Taylor indicated that the matter is not over and he would still like to see the 2500 construction jobs and 300 permanent jobs come to Posey County.
On November 30, 2012, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) offered a package of incentives to Midwest Fertilizer Company to build a fertilizer manufacturing facility in Posey County. The Fatima Group, a Pakistan-based fertilizer company, owns 48 percent of Midwest Fertilizer Company.
In December 2012, Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, the director of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), testified before the U.S. Senate that Fatima Group had been “less than cooperative” in efforts to reduce the improvised explosive device (IED) threat in Central and South Asia.
On January 15, 2013, the day after his inauguration, Governor Pence directed the IEDC to place the incentives for the Posey County project on hold pending a review in light of Fatima Group’s ownership interest in Midwest Fertilizer Company.
For the past four months Governor Pence and officials from Indiana have worked closely with officials from the U.S. Department of Defense and others in the federal government to conduct a review of Fatima Group. The company has informed U.S. defense officials that they have a reformulated product that is less explosive, but U.S. officials have not yet tested the product. While testing of Fatima’s product may address U.S. concerns, the testing will not be done in time to satisfy what the State understands is the company’s financing time schedule.
Taylor told county official prior to the announcement that the engineer from Pakistan has been in Posey County over the last week meeting with companies that they were going to be sign building contracts with. The engineer has also been reviewing the logistics of the proposed site and the available facilities at the port.
“We had him out on the river last Thursday because some of the stuff they’ll be bringing in by barge will be as long as 400 feet and weigh as much as 300 tons,” Taylor said.
There is opposition to the project being launched by a group of people in Spencer County. Taylor was notified a few weeks ago that the group is led by a retired military individual and has begun a letter-writing campaign expressing their opposition to the project.
“Where we have a letter writing campaign to get this approved, they have a letter writing campaign to get this stopped. The only reason I can understand for that to be is their fear that if this goes first, theirs won’t happen,” Taylor said.
Apparently, Spencer County has been seeking funding for their project and according to Taylor some of that funding was coming from China.
At the end of the day, neither project was approved by the State of Indiana.
Taylor feels the proposed facility will be a tremendous opportunity for the entire region, not just Posey County.
“It is a life-changing event for this region, not just this county, but this region,” Taylor said. “We did a study two weeks ago and this $2 million investment of the first 10 years will have nearly a $9 billion impact in the region.”
Taylor advised the commissioners to continue to reach out to legislators and the Governor and voice support for the project.
“This plant was already designed to be one of the safest plants on the face of the earth. This site will become the model for just about every other plant that’s going to be built,” Taylor said.
Democrat Party Chairman Ed Adams stated while he is in support of the project, he expressed concern over the company bringing in their own workforce and not hiring local labor to fill positions.
Taylor responded to Adams’ concerns stating the company would bring in their own general contractor, but this project would employ 2500 construction workers for two to three years.
Taylor and the commissioners urged continued public support of the project by contacting Governor Pence by phone at 317-232-4567 or visit the website at www.indiana.gov to direct an e-mail to his office. Representative Wendy McNamara can be reached by phone at 317-232-9671 or by e-mail at: email@example.com; Senator Jim Tomes phone: 317-232-9400 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.