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Jackson Co. residents excited for new jobs, business from Carbonyx plant

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RAVENSWOOD, WV -

For many years, manufacturing companies Constellium and Century Aluminum dominated the workforce near Ravenswood in Jackson County, WV.

An announcement from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin Thursday, Nov. 21 introduces a third C-word into the area: Carbonyx.

"Carbonyx is a tremendous innovator in the steel-making business and they've decided to invest right here in the Mountain State because of our top-notch workforce and winning business climate," said Gov. Tomblin during a press conference. "This company could have chosen anywhere in the world to build this plant, and they chose Jackson County."

Texas-based Carbonyx Inc. will construct a plant near the Jackson County Maritime and Industrial Centre at Millwood. The facility will use West Virginia coal to produce a key component in the steel-making process.

The company plans to break ground in 2014 and build the plant in phases, according to state officials. During the first phase, Carbonyx will create approximately 60 jobs and 200 jobs will be added throughout the next seven years, sources said.

The company purchased property that was formerly owned by Century Aluminum, according to JCDA Executive Director Mark Whitley. Century's nearby smelter has been idle since 2009, and the company has cited high energy costs among the reasons for halting production.

Whitley noted that new technology to be used at Carbonyx may provide Century and other electrical users with financial relief.

"A byproduct of their process will generate electricity that will be sold back into AEP's (American Electric Power's) grid," he said. "Hopefully, over time, it may help lower the cost of electricity for Century Aluminum.

Between the idled Century plant in 2009 and the benefit battles that ensnared union workers and the county's largest employer, Constellium, Jackson County residents know what strife looks like.

In 2000, 4,031 people lived in Ravenswood, according to Mayor Michael Ihle. The population dropped to 3,876 just 10 years later.

"We've lost a lot of jobs in this area from plants, so with this new plant coming, it'd be a very big economic boost for this area," said Rich Matheny, who works for AEP in Jackson County.

Ravenswood resident Cody Rexroad says he might apply for a position.

"I know a lotta people probably been jobless," said Rexroad, 20. "Looking for a job, working hard to find one."

Others say the manufacturing plant could stimulate local business.

"We're all struggling because disposable income's hard to come by," said Mark Lemley, who owns River Bend Antiques & Craft Mall in Ravenswood. "We need people out there making money."

Lemley is a seventh-generation resident of Ravenswood. He's seen people leave as a result of unemployment. He sees Jackson County's potential and he's glad Carbonyx sees it, too.

"We got Interstate, we got railroad, and we got water," Lemley said. "So we're wide open."

The Carbonyx announcement marks the third economic development announcement made by Gov. Tomblin in less than 2 weeks. The governor announced the expansion of the Sogefi plant in Wayne County Nov. 12, signaling the creation of 250 jobs.

Last week, Gov. Tomblin announced Brazilian-conglomerate Odebrecht had chosen a site in Wood County, WV to explore the location of an ethane cracker plant and three polyethlene plants.

If you are interested in applying, visit carbonyx.com.