A Valencia County manufacturer is shuttering its facility after more than three decades of operation in the community. 

By Dec. 31, the Aristech Surfaces batch polyester tray casting plant in the Rio Grande Industrial Park, located south of the city of Rio Communities on N.M. 304, will be decommissioned and 24 employees will move on to other jobs. 

The Valencia County plant was part of the Kentucky-based Aristech Surfaces portfolio, which publicly traded Trinseo (NYSE: TSE) acquired in September 2021. 

Brian Risinger, director of corporate communications for Trinseo, said acrylic products simply aren’t doing well globally. 

“The blended sheets business, the chemical industry in general, there’s been a lot of inflationary, recessionary issues,” Risinger said. “There’s been a weak demand around the world, so what we’ve had to look at as an organization is our entire footprint around this line of business.”  

According to an Aug. 17 U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing and online reporting from various trade publications, Trinseo’s board approved a restructuring plan designed to optimize its PMMA sheet network. 

PMMA — polymethyl methacrylate — is a synthetic polymer commonly known as acrylic, acrylic glass and plexiglass that is used as a glass substitute for items such as windows, illuminated signs and aircraft canopies. 

“That’s really what’s driven the (New Mexico) site closure,” Risinger said. “We have announced closures of other operations in our portfolio for similar reasons. 

“This is really unfortunate. It’s not something we relish doing. I’m only 90 days in myself, but my understanding is it was a well-run facility that had a great partnership with the community over the years. It’s unfortunate.” 

Risinger said the company’s human resources team was working with Valencia County employees and other manufacturers locally to try to connect people with placement opportunities.  

“Certainly people are able to apply for jobs within the (Trinseo) organization,” he said. “I understand some might not want to leave the Belen area, but that is open to them as well. We are doing what we can to ease the transition.”  

Between now and the target closure date of Dec. 31, the plant will be decommissioned, Risinger said, with most of the work focused on safety and environmental health precautions. 

The property is owned by Trinseo and the location of the facility wasn’t a factor in its closure, he said, but the future of the plant is unknown at this time. 

“There may be some decommissioning activities that roll over into the first part of next year,” Risinger said. “But after that I don’t know what the plans are for the property.” 

The facility opened in October 1988, as Avonite, Inc., an architectural resin company. In 2000, Mitsubishi purchased both Avonite and Aristech Acrylics. The two companies — Aristech and Avonite — merged in 2003 and was renamed Aristech Surfaces. That company was purchased by SK Capital in 2008, and then by Trinseo in late 2021. 

In addition to the batch polyester tray casting plant in Valencia County, Trinseo announced the closure of manufacturing operations at its PMMA cast sheets plant in Bronderslev, Denmark and the PMMA extruded sheet production line at its Rho, Italy plant. 

According to an Aug. 28 article by Stephen Moore on plasticstoday.com, Trinseo reported a loss of $349 million on sales of $963 million in three months to June 2023. In the same article, Moore reported Trinseo announced in December 2022 it was folding its styrene production facility in Boehlen, Germany, and shutting down a polycarbonate production line in Stade, Germany.  

The company also said it would consolidate PMMA sheet manufacturing in Matamoros, Mexico, at the Aristech Surfaces production line in Florence, Kentucky, and reduce styrene-butadiene latex capacity at its site in Hamina, Finland. 

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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.