BELPRE - Kraton Polymers has been a significant part of the Mid-Ohio Valley in the last 50 years, officials said.
"It's amazing, the impact of Kraton on the community," said Belpre Mayor Mike Lorentz. "The employees attend area churches, belong to civic and service organizations, sit on community boards and patronize the stores and restaurants."
Joyce Mather, executive director of the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley, said not only does the company contribute to the organization, which aids many organizations and programs throughout the area, but encourages its employees to donate funds and to volunteer.
JOLENE CRAIG Special to The Times
The Kraton Belpre Plant is among the largest industrial facilities and employers in the Mid-Ohio Valley. The plant, formerly Shell, is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
"They are one of the top contributors to the United Way, and we are not only grateful for their financial assistance, but also their volunteer spirit," she said.
Lorentz, who retired from Kraton in 2006 after 26 years with the company, said within the plant, being part of the community through volunteering and community service is a way of life.
"Kraton's community service is just accepted as being part of the plant's family," he said.
Numerous employees participate in civic organizations and the company is a Partners in Education with Jackson Middle School and Belpre High School.
At Belpre High School, the company helps with programs and sponsors events. Many of its employees, including engineers, participate in a tutoring program known as "intervention."
The program began in 2008 with two phases that include student-on-student tutoring as well as Kraton employees tutoring students. The Kraton employees offer help in various subjects such as physics, chemistry, calculus and pre-calculus.
"This is not something these engineers and workers do as part of their job, but on top of their job," Lorentz said. "It says a lot about these people that they will take off work in the middle of the day to spend three hours tutoring students in math and then go back to the plant."
Besides donations of time and money, there's the jobs, too, the mayor said.
"In the city building, we once worked up that although Kraton employs more than 600 individuals, with part-time and other contracting work that includes truck drivers, printing, barges, coal and other services they use, they provide about 5,000 jobs per week," Lorentz said. "If they were to close their doors, it would not only be a blow to Belpre, but there would be a direct impact on all of southeastern Ohio and north central West Virginia."
Both Lorentz and Mather said every person in Belpre and the Mid-Ohio Valley has been touched by the community-minded work of Kraton and the employees in the past 50 years. Whether it is through their behind-the-scenes work with the United Way or spending their time, energy and resources cleaning up after floods in the city, everyone has benefited from the plant's presence.
"Kraton is an excellent community member," Lorentz said. "This city would be a very different place without them."