MARIETTA — After visiting Solvay Specialty Polymers on Ohio 7 south of Marietta Thursday, U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance praised what he called “an incredible specialty chemicals facility in the heart of southeast Ohio” and said he wants to help from Washington, D.C., to keep it that way.
Vance, R-Ohio, made the stop Thursday afternoon as part of a tour of a variety of businesses and community organizations in the state, as well as Rickenbacker Air Force Base in Columbus. He spoke with Solvay officials and workers about some of the challenges they face, including a shift away from raw materials coming from within the United States.
“We should not be getting so much of our stuff from East Asia, especially China,” the freshman senator said, describing America’s trade battle with that nation as a “cold war.” “We’ve got to make more of our own stuff.”
Solvay makes sulfone polymers, which are used in a variety of products. The plant has been in the community since it was part of the larger Union Carbide facility along Ohio 7. It was acquired in 2001 by BP Amoco and has been the site of significant investment and expansion since then, said Marty Lawhon, site manager.
The company hopes to continue that in the next four years, “making what we make but more of it,” he said.
However, inflation poses a challenge, particularly when it comes to construction costs, Lawhon said. And while he said the business has “a great working relationship” with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, regulations, particularly air permitting, are another obstacle.
“We used to receive most of our raw materials from the United States,” Lawhon said. “However, that has changed because of regulations.”
More than 50% of those materials now come from outside the country, he said.
Vance said he plans to work to reduce the regulatory burden on manufacturers in the country to help make expansion like Solvay’s possible. Asked about Gov. Mike DeWine’s pitch to promote major economic development sites within commuting distance of all Ohioans through the $2.5 billion Ohio Future Fund, the senator said, “I guess I see my job at the federal level (being) to make it easier for Gov. DeWine and others to lure businesses to Ohio.”
Vance said this tour of the state was different from his 2022 Senate campaign because instead of asking for votes he was “trying to learn what people are dealing with.
“We learned a lot here,” he said.
Lawhon said Vance’s visit was an exciting opportunity.
“We’re very proud of our site. We have wonderful people that work here. We have wonderful products,” he said. “It’s certainly good to have a good partnership with the community, with the local government. And with a U.S. senator, that takes it to another level.”
Asked about the ongoing D.C. standoff over raising the nation’s debt ceiling before a historic default occurs, Vance said he believes Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy and House Republicans have delivered a workable plan to President Joe Biden.
“It pays the country’s debts. It also does a little belt-tightening,” he said.
Biden can’t simply sit back and refuse their offer but needs to negotiate in good faith, said Vance, adding he expects the president to do so.
Evan Bevins can be reached at email@example.com.
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