By Kim West
A Japanese plastics company is considering locating a plant in Athens’ Elm Industrial Park. The Limestone County Commission and Athens City Council approved an $800,000 land purchase option for the company during Monday’s joint meeting.
The company’s Michigan-based subsidiary, Asahi Kasei North Alabama Plastics Inc., is examining several prospective sites in the Southeast, said Limestone County Economic Development Association President Tom Hill during the meeting.
Hill cautioned that the land option is only a preliminary step. He added that if Asahi selects Athens, the plant site would need further approval for improved infrastructure, including a road, rail access and utilities.
“We’re in competition with other sites in the Southeast,” Hill said. “This is part of making sure the land is available to them if they choose to come here.”
The 90-day option would allow Asahi to purchase 50 acres “for the intended construction and operation of a new manufacturing facility of approximately 100,000 square feet,” according to the resolution unanimously approved by the commission and council.
The purchase option contract, at $16,000 per acre, required dual consent because the city and county co-own 30 acres.
The proposed location is adjacent to Athens Utilities headquarters and within the northern portion of the industrial park bracketed by Airport Road and Wilkinson Street, Hill said.
He said the plant would process polypropylene plastic pellets similar to the operations of Athens-based Customer Polymers, which is located in the industrial park. Asahi also processes engineering materials for automotive manufacturers.
About 25 people attended the meeting, including U.S Department of Commerce project manager and Tanner High alumnus Joseph Burchfield, Asahi representative John Boyd and Athens developer Bill Ming.
The resolution passed on a commission vote of 3-0 because County Commissioner Gary Daly is attending a conference and a council vote of 4-0 because City Councilman Joseph Cannon had a previously scheduled work obligation.