Agrium president visits former Unocal plant

Posted: Tuesday, October 24, 2000

NIKISKI (AP) -- The president of Agrium Inc. told employees of the former Unocal Alaska Nitrogen Products plant that they are now part of a global corporation where the core business is agricultural products.

John Van Brunt, president and chief executive officer of Agrium Inc., met with the fertilizer plant's 285 employees on Monday. Agrium, based in Calgary, Alberta, completed its buyout of Unocal's agricultural products division late last month.

Brunt spent nearly 30 years with Cominco, the Canadian mining company that spun off Agrium in 1993, and said he understands the problems of trying to operate an agricultural business under the umbrella of a parent company that concentrates on other areas. That will change with Agrium's acquisition of the Nikiski plant, he said.

Van Brunt said the company's employees will not see a lot of differences at first, though plant expansion may be in the future.

''The (agricultural) business grows year after year, so we will probably see more capital than less,'' he said.

Growing affluence in developing nations has created an increased demand for meat-filled diets. That is the driving force behind agriculture business expansion. Cattle production requires more grain production, which is where Agrium comes in to supply the fertilizers to grow the grain.

Grain production currently is lagging behind demand, Van Brunt said.

''The world is going to need to produce 40 percent more foodstuffs in the next 20 years,'' he said. ''It's a challenging opportunity for us.''

While in town, Van Brunt also took the opportunity to meet with some of the area's political and business leaders.

''I told them who we are, where we came from and about our views on the environment,'' Van Brunt said at a news conference later. ''We are cognizant of the beauty of this area. The previous owners were very good corporate citizens, and we're no different.''

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