Port Log Fall 2015

Johnny Chavez takes great pride knowing Dow’s St. Charles’ reputation for finding solutions may be unmatched


There’s no stumping Johnny Chavez, not even when the Dow veteran of nearly three decades is asked the tricky question of how many different job titles he has held with the company.

“Wow,” says Chavez. “I’ve worn a bunch of different hats, that’s true. It’s been a great career. I’ve really enjoyed every step of it. So the first step — I started out in R&D with Dow, polyurethanes R&D in Freeport, Texas in 1988.”

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For the next four minutes, Chavez seamlessly rattles through his accomplished and diverse resume without a hiccup. For example, in 1990 he moves into manufacturing, doing various jobs at various job locations. In 2002, he was named Director of Engineering for the Gulf Coast region, then two years later, did the same thing overseas. In 2006, he was promoted to Global Business Manufacturing Director for Specialty Plastics. He’s also been the Global Business Manufacturing Director for Dow’s Epoxy business and Associate Site Director for Dow’s Texas Operations.

“Yeah, I moved around a little bit,” says Chavez. “Got to see all different sites — large sites, small sites, up north, down south, in Europe, the business side, the finance side, operations side, manufacturing side. It all added up to experience. It’s a well-rounded perspective, which when you’re dealing with the size and scope of the site I’m at now, is a huge advantage.

“Really, every place I’ve been and everything I’ve done brought me to where I am now, right here.”

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The Dow St. Charles Operations Center in Hahnville is one of five core facilities the company operates in south Louisiana, giving the household-name business the largest petrochemical presence in the entire state. Measuring 2,000 acres and employing 2,500 workers, Dow’s St. Charles integrated petrochemical complex has over 10 billion pounds of annual production capacity and makes a multitude of products founds in consumer goods such as: plastics, insecticides, films, fabrics, antifreeze, fuels, brake fluids, paints, toothpaste, fabric softeners, medical supplies and host of other things found in garages, closets and pantries.  

“On a relatively small asset base, from a profit point-of-view, we’re doing exceptionally well,” Chavez says. “There are a couple factors to that. One, being located here in south Louisiana and therefore having access to great, abundant, low-cost feedstock and energy sources. But also, the logistics out of here are tremendous. We can get out of the Port, we can use the river and rail is good. So that all helps.”

One of the more distinct features of Dow’s St. Charles Operations Complex — and therefore one of Chavez’s early challenges when he took over as Site Leader in April 2014 — is the myriad of  products created and shipped out of this facility. Where many Dow sites specialize in one thing, the St. Charles site dabbles in multiple specialty items.

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“You’ve got to be flexible,” Chavez says. “You’d like to think you can do everything the same way and that would make the most money, but at a site like this, where you have such diversity in the products and the technology used in those products, you can’t do things the same way. We have to allow each plant, each business, to make decisions that make sense for them yet still send a consistent message to our employees and contractors.

“So it’s a little more complicated, but that’s what makes it fun and exciting.”

Because of that diverse product line, Chavez has had no problem leaning on the knowledge and expertise of division directors and longtime Dow employees at St. Charles. At Chavez’s site, the Dow Leadership Team is 30 members deep and has the ability to handle most day-to-day decisions.

“Because of their time here and there know-how they’ve not only eased my transition here, but allow my job to be what it truly should be — more strategic, more visionary,” Chavez says. “That’s not possible without great leadership throughout the site and a great team, in general.”



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