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Editorial: Announcement means Eastman is here to stay

Staff Report • May 30, 2013 at 7:21 AM

There is more to read into Eastman Chemical Company’s announcement Wednesday than its major investment in the Kingsport plant.More significant even than $1.6 billion in capital money and 300 jobs is what this says about Eastman’s future as a major player in the global marketplace and its commitment to Kingsport: that both are secure.Project Inspire as detailed by Chairman and CEO Jim Rogers removes any concern that Eastman might relocate significant Kingsport production — or even its corporate offices.Eastman has a presence in dozens of countries around the world including China and South America, and over the years rumors have floated that it might be to Eastman’s advantage to have its corporate presence closer to or in its major markets. But what Rogers said yesterday affirms that Eastman is here for the duration, and that’s the best news this region could hear.And what a major shot in the arm for Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia: many hundreds of construction jobs as Project Inspire unfolds along with 300 new, permanent jobs at Eastman’s top-of-scale wage and benefit program, expanding its Kingsport workforce to 7,000.Over the next seven years, Eastman will invest $1.6 billion of its own money in Kingsport, modernizing and expanding the Kingsport campus, including a new office building. But as Rogers and Gov. Bill Haslam pointed out, along with that work will be investments by the state that include road infrastructure and training needs through the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing.Together, we have built a significant legacy in this region, and we look forward to it continuing,” said Rogers. “This investment will enable our headquarter campus to grow as the company does, and that is good for all of us. A growing company creates jobs, strengthens the tax base and benefits all of our stakeholders, including our employees, communities, customers and stockholders.”Indeed, Project Inspire will pour hundreds of millions of new dollars into the region, growing other jobs, supporting other businesses, and contributing to the city and county tax base, which allows local government to improve services. Well done, Jim Rogers! Well done, Eastman management and our political leadership! Most of all, well done, ALL Eastman employees who, as Rogers made specifically clear yesterday, are the primary reason for Eastman’s continued success!

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