A day after Hess Corporation announced the closure of their Port Reading refinery, there is some talk that the closure may not be as calamitious for the township as it might first appear.
Mayor John McCormac hinted as much in his mention of the refinery closure in a 10-page State of the Township speech he gave Tuesday to the Woodbridge Chamber of Commerce.
"The silver lining after the Hess announcement is that two new projects are in the pipeline (pun intended) that have the potential to replace the lost Hess jobs five times over," the mayor said.
Hess announced Monday that they'll not only be closing their refinery facility, but seeking to divest themselves of their entire terminal network in the United States.
The Port Reading refinery shuttering, slated for the end of February, will affect 170 jobs in the short term, said Lorrie Hecker, Hess director of communications.
"[Other employees] will continue to work at the refinery through a transition period of a number of months on our plans to convert the full site to a refined products terminal," Hecker said in a statement.
McCormac pointed to two warehouse facilities in his speech - one already in Avenel, and another to be built in Fords - that he said "could produce" as many as 1,000 jobs.
Hess' massive corporate headquarters building on Route 9, which McCormac said employs more than 800 workers, will continue to operate, as will their "retail stores" - the company's gas stations and attached convenience stores in the area.
The mayor's office did not return phone calls, inquiring about the amount of money Hess currently pays to the township.
Hecker said the company "fully expect(s) our terminals will continue to operate, pay taxes and provide comparable employment regardless of the outcome of the divestiture process.
"For this reason, the impact on property taxes is expected to be minimal," she said in a statement.
As a point of comparison, the much larger Bayway Refinery, down the road in Linden, pays the city $15.7 million in property taxes annually, said Linden Mayor Richard J. Gerbounka.
The Bayway Refinery, originally built on land purchased by Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller in 1907, celebrated its centennial just four years ago. The continuously operating facility has been an invaluable part of the city of Linden and the surrounding community, Gerbounka said.
The Bayway tax payments constitute a large chunk of Linden's $95 million municipal budget. But more to the point is the impact that refinery has on the lives of citizens in the area.
"Quite a few people who live in Linden and the surrounding area work there," Gerbounka said.
"Besides the property taxes, they provide a lot of bread and butter for Linden residents in terms of jobs and for people outside the city," he said, pointing to a close relationship he and the city enjoys with the refinery's management.
"They're a good corporate neighbor," he said.