One of only two companies in the country that manufactures an ingredient used in solid rocket fuel production is considering expanding operations to a remote site, which could possibly be in Utah.
But Patrick Corbett, plant manager at Kerr McGee Corporation's plant in Henderson, Nev., said Thursday that any expansion would depend on negotiations with the federal government.And "no one knows the outcome of the negotiations" between officials of the company based in Oklahoma City and the government, he said.
A United Press International story Thursday quoted KLAS-TV, a CBS affiliate in Las Vegas, as saying that the corporation, which employs about 7,000 to 8,000 people nationwide, had been courted by officials of the Cedar City area.
That is where Pacific Engineering and Production Co. (PEPCON) chose to rebuild a plant to replace its facility destroyed by a fiery explosion in Henderson on May 4.
The PEPCON disaster claimed two lives, injured more than 350 people and caused millions of dollars in damage to nearby buildings. The blast touched off a public debate over tighter safety rules and regulations governing the plant operations.
The PEPCON and Kerr McGee plants were located about two miles apart in Henderson. Both manufacture and store ammonium perchlorate, an oxidizing agent required for the nation's solid rocket fuel arsenal. They are the only plants in the United States that produce ammonium perchlorate.
The chemical is also used in the space shuttle. Unless PEPCON resumes production by the beginning of next year, both Morton Thiokol and Hercules have warned layoffs are imminent.
The UPI story said Kerr McGee was investigating the possibility of moving a portion of its Henderson, Nev., plant out of state because of an adverse political climate in southern Nevada.
But Corbett told the Deseret News Thursday that relocation was not being considered because of political pressure.
"If we were to expand ammonium perchlorate production capacity it would most likely be at a remote site," he said.
"If there is a need for additional production capacity and everything looks favorable, then we will probably expand capacity at a remote site. But we don't intend to relocate the production facility at Henderson. There is nothing to say we won't operate two facilities," Corbett said.
The Kerr McGee plant in Henderson employs about 240 people.
The manager said he understands that there is "only a remote possibility that a portion of the company's operations would be relocated and that only would be determined after negotiations with the government."
He said several municipalities in remote areas of the country have contacted Kerr McGee. They include sites in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
Corbett said a representative of the Kerr McGee real estate department, based in Oklahoma City, had visited a site near Cedar City. He said the same person has also visited possible sites in other states.
Cedar City Mayor Robert Linford, who along with Iron County and Utah Power & Light Co. officials have been working with Kerr McGee representatives, said Thursday he understands that sites in Nevada and Arizona are also being considered.
He said the Utah site being considered is close to a site purchased by PEPCON. That property, 4,800 acres, is located about 15 miles from Cedar City.
If the company were to locate in Utah, Linford said he understands it would probably employ about the same number of people as PEPCON.