Eastman Chemical Plant Sold

July 25, 2006--Posted at 5:30 p.m. CDT

BATESVILLE, AR--As the price of gasoline creeps toward three dollars a gallon, Americans are once again looking to alternative fuels like bio-diesel and a Region 8 manufacturer is poised to be a major producer.

The Eastman Chemical Plant in Batesville is one of the largest producers of bio-diesel in the region, but Eastman Chemical Company has announced it is selling the Batesville plant.

Eastman Chemical has been located in Batesville for almost 30 years and now the plant is looking to the future with a different name.

"We're very excited about the prospects for the future because Viceroy has indicated to us about their intent to grow bio-fuels and bio diesel," said Eastman Batesville General Manager Randall Powell.

Viceroy Acquisition Corporation based out of Clayton, Missouri is purchasing the Batesville site for over 75 million dollars. The company has been aggressive in the bio-fuel industry and was drawn to the production that was already in place in Batesville.

"Viceroy is also engaged in petroleum marketing and distribution so Viceroy was a natural fit for us to sell our products through their avenues," said Powell.

In addition to the bio-fuels, Viceroy Acquisition Corporation will also take control of Eastman's specialty chemical line and over 408 employees on site.

"We are intending to grow and we need everyone who is here. Our new owner has told us their intent is to employ everyone at the site," said Powell.

With the acquisition, the Batesville plant hopes to expand their bio-fuel capabilities. Currently their manufacture about eight million gallons of bio-diesel a year and hope with the acquisition to go as high as over 100 million gallons a year.

"That would make us one of the largest bio-diesel producers in the nation," said Powell.

The increase in production will be aggressive and take 12 to 18 months. It's a move that could lead to economic growth in the area.

"In the near term, we won't be adding any jobs, but obviously if we begin to grow aggressively.  Additional jobs are a real possibility in the future," said Powell.

As the country looks more and more to alternative fuels, Viceroy and the Batesville plant hope to be industry leaders.

In addition to bio-diesel the plant in Batesville is making strides in the bio-ethanol product line as well.

The deal with Viceroy Acquisition Corporation will close and become official sometime around October.