Ashland chemical plant adapting to industry and practicing safety first

Plant that produces plastics for boats, showers and tubs and more looking towards 17 years without time loss accident

Kelowna-Lake Country MP Ron Cannan (right) hears about some research taking place at Ashland's facility near Winfield as explained by Ashland technical services rep Jamie Turner.

For the past 17 years, many things have changed at Ashland’s chemical plant located near Winfield in the region’s industrial area.

There has been global downsizing that has the Ashland operation in the Okanagan as the last standing Canadian operation by a company that supplies specialty chemicals, technologies and expertise and operates in more than 100 countries around the world.

The company locally has grown to employ 32 people but has also had to downsize its operations from a seven days per week facility that operates 24 hours a day to one that does the same, but just on a five day work week.

But the one thing that has remained is the company’s safety record. In two weeks Ashland’s operation in the Okanagan will celebrate 17 years without a time loss accident.

“We’re very proud of our safety record and we work very hard to keep it going,” said Kelly Brown, Ashland plant manager. “We’re working with chemicals and there is lots of movement with trucks and rail cars. Our employees have done a fantastic job.”

Brown made the comments as he personally toured Kelowna Lake Country MP Ron Cannan around the site of the plant which came to the Okanagan in the early 1970s along when other large manufacturers such as Western Star and Hiram Walker also arrived in the area.

But Ashland is the last remaining of those original manufacturers that still operates in the Okanagan.

Ashland manufactures structural plastics for boats, campers and tubs and shower stalls among many other things. It operates mostly in Western Canada and in the Pacific Northwest region with its business split equally on both sides of the border.

Among the other changes is a change from hands-on to computerized technology that has seen employees having to change the way they operate and also made the plant more streamlined.

“A lot of our customers are innovative builders,” said Brown. “They may be a canoe maker but they are looking to get lighter materials or they are looking for specialty products. We have a lot of talent here that can help find solutions. Our people make the difference.”

Some research on new products is done in the Ashland plant although major research and development is performaned at Ashland’s $20 million (US) R and D facility in Ohio.

Interestingly, despite the fact that Ashland is located a stone’s throw from the Winfield Arena and a hop-skip-and-a-jump away from the District of Lake Country’s Town Centre, the plant is actually located within the Kelowna city limits thanks to a municipal boundary extension prior to Lake Country’s incorporation. 
That mean’s the company pays its taxes to the City of Kelowna rather than the District of Lake Country as do a handful of other industrial businesses in the vicinity.

Talks to change the boundaries have taken place over the years although there are no immediate plans to change the boundaries. b

As for Cannan, he was in Kelowna for a week to visit with constituents and took the time to show up for the plant tour, asking questions about the industry, the health of the business and what has made it successful.

Cannan says information about local business is key for him to understand the challenges of folks living and working in his home riding.

“My list of responsibilities includes representing my constituents so I find the best way to understand their operation is to meet with them,” said Cannan, who showed up for the tour by himself, minus any kind of political entourage. “I try to hit a couple businesses when I am in the area to find out how they are doing. We have so many specialty and niche businesses here and this is a perfect example.”

Just Posted

Sister of cancer victim cycles across Canada to raise awareness

Her journey started on May 14 and will end in early August

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: cloudy

Environment Canada is calling for a similar day tomorrow.

Top women’s hockey player Natalie Spooner coming to the Okanagan

Natalie Spooner special guest at annual Grindstone Award Foundation charity weekend in Kelowna

Woman in hospital after being thrown off horse

She was airlifted to Kelowna General Hospital from Okanagan Falls

Update: Washed out South Okanagan road temporarily closed for assessment

A portion of Eastside Road, south of Penticton, appears to be crumbling into Skaha Lake

Rescuers finally persuade Eiffel Tower climber to come down

The official said the man was ‘under control and out of danger’ on Monday night

Update: Plan to see more smoke from South Okanagan wildfire

Richter Creek wildfire, 12 kilometres west of Osoyoos, is an estimated 400 hectares

Motorcycle deaths spike 50% since 2017

Riders were most likely fatally crash on the weekends compared with the rest of the week

Family of B.C. pilot killed in Honduras trying to ‘piece together’ tragedy

Patrick Forseth has a number of friends in the area and was loved by everyone

Justin Trudeau credits immigration for Canada’s growing tech sector

Trudeau stressed that Canada has become a major source of talent for tech all over the world

Feds launch tourism strategy designed to boost sector 25 per cent by 2025

The fund is supposed to back experiences that show off Canada’s strengths

Column: A solar pioneer in the Okanagan rides among us

This Summerland octogenarian has been producing his own electrical energy for more than 20 years

Should B.C. already be implementing province-wide fire bans?

A petition is calling for B.C. Wildfire Service to issue a ban to reduce risk of human caused wildfires

Most Read