Chemicals: Potash grows through commitment to safety, investing in capital, employees

First Posted: 2/4/2014

LIMA — To understate things, Potash has had a very good year.

In 2013, the company had a ribbon cutting for its $25 million office complex employees moved into in November of 2012. The company jointly earned Visionary of the Year Award, with Husky Energy, for its hundreds of thousands of dollars of charitable contributions and its capital investments. And it was ranked by the Ohio Society of Human Resource Managers as one of the best employers in the state.

At the Visionaries dinner, Potash Lima Plant Manager Todd Sutton said the facility’s 145 employees should get the credit.

“Without the efforts of this community and our employees and their relentless dedication to safety and the environment, this wouldn’t be possible,” Sutton said at the time.

Potash, a Canadian company with operations around the globe, produces primarily agricultural fertilizer in Lima. The company purchased the facility in 1997 and took over operations at the Fort Amanda plant in 2008.

“It’s always good to see investment come back into your facility. It helps with the long-term viability,” Sutton said. “New buildings have helped morale, but they’ve also helped with collaboration between departments, created streamlined processes and efficiencies.”

The new office building is an inviting place to work. The design is purposeful, Sutton said.

“It’s nice to come into work every day. It’s not a sterile environment,” Sutton said. “One of my favorite parts is the sound system that plays light music through the hallways. At Christmas, we played Christmas music and turned it up.”

Construction on the facility began in 2009, and the contractors had 182,000 hours, the entire project, without any lost time from an injury. General contractor H.A. Dorsten, of Minster, won awards for the construction. Nearly 70 percent of the construction work was done by Ohio firms, and Potash used regional firms whenever possible to help invest in the local economy. Businesses in Elida, Lima, New Bremen, Sidney and Wapakoneta contributed to the building.

The plant hasn’t had a work-related injury for 13 years, partly because the company has a culture of safety. The company also invests in its infrastructure. In 2013, the company spent $72 million on sustaining its capital, including $6.5 million on safety enhancements. This year will be roughly the same thing, with $70 million in planned maintenance investments, including $8 million spent on safety.

The Lima facility devotes about 50 percent of its production to fertilizer and agricultural products and 50 percent to other industrial and household products, such as contributions to carpeting, cosmetics, cleaning products, medicines and plastics.

Also in 2013, the company installed a new diesel fluid blending system, and shipments of the product increased 50 percent, Sutton said. There is a growing demand for the product, which goes in semi-trucks and reduces emissions.

“It’s good for us, helps us grow, and it’s good for the environment,” Sutton said.

The company has 145 direct employees, but with contractor support the facility supports a total of 240 to 300 workers, depending on the work and demand. This fall, the facility will see a major maintenance turnaround in the fall, in which the plant is shut down for maintenance.

This year, the company is looking to grow again. It will soon apply for permits for an expansion.

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