El Dorado News-Times, Monday, September 30, 2013
Great Lakes Solutions
Community minded: From service to science
By Sherelle Black
(Editor’s Note: The following article is the 45th in a series on established El Dorado businesses that have been in operation for 40 years or more.)
South Arkansas is known for many things from its enriched culture filled with southern history to renowned hunting and fishing areas to MusicFest, which brings artists from just about every genre to El Dorado the first weekend in October every year.
A vital part to South Arkansas’ uniqueness is the fact that it sits atop a bromine-rich brine reserve that happens to be the second largest brine reserve in the world. The reserve, known as the Smackover Limestone Formation, is the basis for some large corporations to make El Dorado home to a couple of their plants.
For more than 47 years, Great Lakes Solutions, a Chemtura business, has been providing El Dorado residents with jobs and supplying the community with an abundant amount of service and projects. Before Great Lakes Solutions found its way to Arkansas, the business began in Michigan in 1933 as McClanahan Oil Company. After a series of acquisitions and mergers, the company was renamed Great Lakes Oil and Chemical Company in 1950.
Meanwhile in the 1950s in El Dorado, Michigan Chemical Company joined with Murphy Oil Corporation in an effort to utilize waste brine from Murphy’s Catesville oil operations. With an investment of $600,000, the two companies constructed a plant in 1957 in El Dorado that produced approximately 3,000 pounds of bromine — a halogen that is freed from brine through a chemical reaction with chlorine — per year.
Putting aside it’s roots in oil and gas exploration, Great Lakes Oil and Chemical Company began focusing more on bromine assets. After purchasing several bromine rich brine wells in Arkansas in 1960, the company changed its name yet again, this time to Great Lakes Chemical Corporation. The corporation would open its first plant in El Dorado — the Central Plant — in 1965. The plant would start with 13 employees and three processes. It would expand to a multi-purpose facility in the late 1970s. Currently, the 1,200 acre plant employs more than 300 people and manufactures products such as: bromine and in termediates, flame retardants, oil field chemicals, water treatment chemicals and agriculture products.
In 2005, as the result of a merger between Great Lakes Chemical and Crompton Corporation, a new parent company was formed named Chemtura Corporation, which remains the parent company today. Cardin added, "Today we are known as Great Lakes Solutions (A Chemtura Business).
" Today, we are financially strong, innovative and environmentally conscious. Great Lakes Solution is not only moving toward greener products, but they are also reaching out to the community more in efforts to educate locals. Cardin said environmental health safety is very important to the company and will continue to be.
A few years ago we launched an outreach that goes beyond just the downtown community events. We launched an outreach to our neighbors that are very rural that live out by our wells and pipelines to educate them about the safety, as well as giving them contact information in case they needed us for anything and informing them on what to do in case of an emergency.
While educating local residents about environmental health safety is important, Cardin said the company feels giving back to the community is just as important. "We are very thankful of the support this community has given us," she said. "It’s critical for us to continue to do business here. We try to give back to the community. This company has always been supportive We are called on often to help with things, and we have employees that volunteer for all these events. The company has recently sponsored an Earth Day event for 900 Union County 5th and 6th graders, raised almost $5,000 for American Cancer Society Relay for Life and donated a buzzer system to Parkers Chapel School to use in their learning and testing center among other things.
"We try to participate in all the events that have happened in the community," Cardin said.. We’re proud of that and the fact we can go out and have a children’s day, back to school bash and things like that. It’s one of our biggest community projects. "It’s because of the company’s strong presence in the community and their commitment to environmental health safety and workers that keeps more than 500 employees coming back each day to Great Lakes Solutions.