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Odebrecht hopes to create more W.Va. jobs

Cleaning out the notebook following last week's landmark announcement that Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht is making plans to build an ethylene cracker and three other polyethylene plants in Wood County: 
David Peebles, the company's vice president for business development, said it was "most symbolic" that the announcement was made at the Caperton Center for Applied Technology at West Virginia University at Parkersburg. 
"I'm looking up on the second floor and I see students — that's why we're here," Peebles said. "We're here to create a legacy asset for a generation ofst youth."
Education will play crucial role in developing that asset. Peebles said attracting qualified manpower and developing a skilled work force are key elements in successfully operating a petrochemical facility on a long-term basis. 
"Most important thing when we think about how many jobs (could be created at the plant), is to think of the creation of trained, skilled manpower," Peebles said. 
He said the company already employs 180,000 people worldwide and hopefully create many more in West Virginia. 
His advice to the students: "Stay trained, get good grades and you're going to have a great job and a great life."
Peebles also had a more sobering message for the students: Don't do drugs.
He said it was a recurring problem in the U.S. work force. 
"Here in the United States, one of the issues we have is drugs," Peebles said. 
He said Odebrecht has a strict drug-free workplace policy. All new hires, regardless of age, are required to pass drug screenings to be employed at Odebrecht facilities. 
Peebles said it was a matter of not only operating a productive plant, but protecting the safety of all workers. 
"You do not get hired if you do not pass a drug test with us," he said. 
If you're still confused at how to pronounce Odebrecht, don't worry, you're not alone. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin even tripped over it a few times Thursday. 
(Though Tomblin seemed to be doing his best to just keep calm and not bust out into full-fledged happy dance the whole time.) 
Peebles helped us out, though, saying you pronounce the end of Odebrecht like you would stretch or fetch: "Oh-Duh-Bretch." 
While state officials did celebrate the occasion, like Odebrecht officials, they tempered their enthusiasm by saying there is still a lot of work left to be done. 
"We're only going to pound our chest for a little while," Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette said. 
There's still two more planning phases — including permitting, engineering and finance work — to go through before the company can break ground. But Burdette said he, the governor and commerce officials would take Thursday at least to celebrate. 
"We're over-the-moon proud — we're thrilled just to get to this point," he said "But tomorrow, we'll go back to work. We've got lots of work to do." 
Contact writer Jared Hunt at or 304-348-4836.
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