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Cargill's plans for the future with the recent addition of Arkema will be under the microscope in the coming months.
Many Blooming Prairie residents, including local business and industry folks, were shocked several weeks ago when it was announced that Cargill, Inc. had acquired Arkema, Inc. for a price tag of over $34 million.
Arkema is a global chemical company located at the south side of the city. Its roots can be traced to a creamery that operated from the early 1890s to 1969.
What plans does Cargill have for this southern Minnesota manufacturing plant?
Cargill connects producers or grain, oilseeds, and other agricultural commodities with users through processing, marketing, and distribution. The company also links crop and livestock producers with farm services and products.
Members of a community Citizens Advisory Panel (CAP) are wondering that same question and hope to have Cargill reveal some answers at a special CAP meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 8. Roger Sorenson is the public facilitator for the Arkema CAP group.
The Arkema CAP group is an advisory entity put together by Arkema and by local residents. The CAP group of 22 individuals meets most months and helps Arkema stay connected with the pulse of the community. This writer/columnist is a member of the panel.
Arkema has carved an outstanding record of contributing to the growth of the Blooming Prairie community.
Since its eventual location provided access to soybeans, its main product necessary to produce its many specialty products, Arkema chose to locate in Blooming Prairie. The location also provided access to rail and boasted a proximity to customers.
Arkema's chemical plant produces over two dozen finished products. These products are manufactured by chemically bonding oxygen to unsaturated bonds found in natural vegetable oils, such as soybean, linseed or other olefinic oils.
This bonding causes changes in the physical appearance and chemical properties of the oils, making them more suitable for industrial use. Arkema's highest volume product is epoxidized soybean oil.
Epoxidized soybean oil and epoxidized linseed oil are primarily used for imparting flexibility, strength and ultraviolet stability to polyvinyl chloride resin formulations.
Arkema also produces other specialty epoxides, which are used in lubricating oil formulations, plastic formulations, and in the cosmetic field, including shampoo, lipstick, and perfume manufacture.
Arkema's products allow its customers to produce goods that are common in daily use, such as food wrap, furniture, automobile interiors, floor tile, and jar cap liners.
The Arkema CAP members represent a diversity of interests including management of Arkema and a sprinkling of Blooming Prairie business, industry, education and citizens. Two Blooming Prairie High School students are also on the panel.
Sorenson has asked plant manager Michael Greene to put aside some time for some Cargill officials to join the CAP group for a time of reflection on the sale of Arkema to Cargill. That's when Sorenson helped set the date of Dec. 8 at 6 p.m. in the BP City Center.
"We all have questions, so bring them to the Dec. 8 meeting," encouraged Sorenson.
Facilitator Roger Sorenson turned the Wednesday, Nov. 17 CAP meeting over to Loan Trinh and Ricky Soto, two management types from Arkema. These two Arkema leaders explained some highlights at Arkema for the past year.
Both hinted that Arkema likely will keep its current employee force. It is expected that Arkema will release its employee force on Dec. 1 and then Cargill will rehire the 40-plus employees.
Trinh oversees Arkema's safety programs and has been instrumental in creating a strong safety program for the plant. She announced that Arkema again recently earned the Governor's Safety Award. She said it is most important for the plant to keep its workers safe.
"Everybody is looking out for everybody," Trinh said.
Soto informed CAP members that 2021 has been a good year for Arkema. Shipping has been slightly behind because of the shortage of truckers, he said.
Soto reported on five key projects of 2021 and five key projects for 2022.
Key projects for 2021 have been: 1) Distillation column tray replacement; 2) water treatment basin liner replacements; 3) Main parking lot paving; 4) conversion of TAB11 for use with new bio plasticizers and fall protection improvements.
Key projects for 2022 will include: 1) main control room HVAC upgrade; 2) plant control system upgrade at a cost of $3 million; 3) additional catwalk construction around outside tanks; 4) improvements to tornado shelter and 5) new platform for loading rail cars.

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