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Greece: Americans Bearing Gifts

2 minute read

Greece has doubled its gross national product, industrial production and personal income since World War II, and tourists thronging to the magic isles have helped provide a favorable balance of payments. But the economy is still fragile: Greece imports twice as much in machinery and goods as it exports in farm products, and jobs are so scarce that more Greeks last year went abroad to work than were born.

To shore up the economy and qualify Greece for continued Common Market associate membership, Prime Minister George Papandreou’s government hopes to secure $900 million in foreign capital over the next five years. Last week the government got a good lift toward its goal when King Constantine laid the cornerstone of a $190 million industrial complex near Salonika that will be the biggest single foreign investment ever made in Greece.

The new complex, christened the Salonika Industrial Development Plan, was conceived by Boston Financier Thomas A. Pappas, 64, and includes projects by three U.S. companies. Esso Pappas, a partnership between Pappas and Jersey Standard, has started work on Greece’s second oil refinery. “Within 19 months,” promised Jersey Executive Vice President William R. Stott, “this bare earth will be covered by a refinery producing 50,000 barrels a day of petroleum.” Esso is also building a 200,000-tons-a-year ammonia plant, Republic Steel is expected to operate an $85 million steel mill, and the Ethyl Corp. will run a petrochemical plant. Altogether, the complex will provide 2,000 new jobs.

Pappas, who has become chairman-general manager of Esso Pappas, is a Greek-American bearing gifts to his motherland. Born Antonios Papadopoulos, he was taken to Boston as a child, eventually shortened his name because “it was easier for my American friends.” He and Brother John expanded their father’s modest grocery and imported-foods business into a profitable range of activities that now include imported liquors, real estate and shipping. They have also financed a Greek light-bulb factory and building-products plant. On frequent trips back to supervise, Tom Pappas noted the improving Greek economy, began serious planning for the industrial complex that he first considered building 25 years ago. He persuaded the U.S. corporations to participate, got bank loans in the U.S. and Athens to supplement his personal investment in the project. “I have achieved my lifetime dream,” he said last week, while the King of Greece troweled mortar.

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