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Niagara Falls chemical plant to go dark after no buyer emerges

Nearly a year ago, Chemours delivered unwelcome news to the region: The chemical company would close its Niagara Falls plant by the end of 2016, eliminating about 200 jobs.

No buyer stepped forward to keep the former DuPont operation running, and Chemours halted production of reactive metals at the the plant at the end of September.

The site still has 85 employees responsible for decommissioning and decontaminating equipment, said Robin Ollis Stemple, a spokeswoman for Delaware-based Chemours. That number will drop to 35 employees by year's end; the last day of work for the remaining employees has not been set.

The Niagara Falls plant officially changed hands in July 2015, when DuPont spun off its performance chemicals company into a separate company, Chemours. DuPont still operates a separate plant in the Town of Tonawanda.

The Niagara Falls plant, on Buffalo Avenue, made chemicals for the pharmaceutical, pulp and paper industries, among others.

Five months after the corporate spinoff came the shutdown announcement. It was part of Chemours' plan to cut about 5 percent of its global work force, or about 400 people. The cuts were projected to save Chemours about $50 million a year. Chemours has since sold off some of its other product lines.

[Related: Chemours closing Niagara Falls plant, eliminating 200 jobs]

The United Steelworkers of America had expressed hope a buyer could be found to keep the Niagara Falls plant running, to maintain its jobs. But Stemple said no such buyers were identified. "Chemours is continuing to work with the local and state economic development interests to find a buyer for the property," she said.

Empire State Development, the state's economic development arm, echoed that viewpoint. State officials noted they have been in discussions with the company, the City of Niagara Falls and Niagara County to identify a buyer for the facility since Chemours announced it would close the plant.

"No buyer has yet been identified, but we will continue to work with our government partners to grow and attract manufacturers in Niagara Falls," the state organization said in a statement.

A Steelworkers representative did not return messages to comment.

The Chemours plant was a major recipient of low-cost power from the New York Power Authority, receiving an allocation of more than 35,000 kilowatts as of a year ago. As the plant's power needs have declined, its allocation has fallen to about 5,000 kilowatts of low-cost power, said Steve Gosset, a Power Authority spokesman. No date has been set for when the plant will stop using the remainder of its low-cost power allocation.

"It becomes available for other entities to apply for that power," Gossett said. "It goes back into the pool."

While the Niagara Falls plant winds down, Chemours reported a $204 million profit in its third quarter, its best result for any quarter since its spinoff in summer 2015. Shares of Chemours had sunk as low as $3.12 last January, but have since rebounded, closing Monday at $22.75, the highest since the stock was launched in summer 2015.

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