Solenis – a major research and manufacturing company that hopes to soon turn billions of Starbucks cups into a compostable and recyclable product – officially cut the ribbon on their new worldwide headquarters in Wilmington today at Avenue North.
First developed in the 1980’s for Astra Zeneca, the four-story building underwent an $8 million facelift to make way for the global manufacturer. Two hundred administrative employees moved into the facility just last month. But representatives with Solenis say the company “has plans for growth” and that the state-of-the-art building has capacity for 400.
“We’re very proud of the $3 billion business that we’ve built today,” said CFO Phil Patterson. “And this milestone of this new headquarters, we believe this is just the beginning. We are also proud to be in Wilmington, where our roots and origins really run deep.”
Avenue North has generated significant buzz since plans for the development were unveiled by developer Delle Donne and Associates in August of 2018.
Located at the intersection of U.S. 202 and Powder Mill Road in Fairfax, Avenue North is expected to become the largest development of its kind in New Castle County and will include corporate offices, restaurants, retail, residences and a hotel. Hospital system ChristianaCare, the state’s largest employer, recently signed a major lease for administrative staff at the site.
Solenis will create nearly 100 jobs in three years
Nearly half of the $8 million came from a Delaware State Strategic Fund grant, which is tied to the company hitting certain employment targets. A company press release from August, 2018 says the company will create 92 jobs within three years.
CEO John Panichella says the newly renovated 90,000 square foot facility – with innovative technology features, collaboration centers, height-adjustable desks, a large fitness room and wellness rooms on every floor — better exemplifies the company’s brand, culture and innovation.
The space is 50 percent larger than their previous headquarters on Beaver Valley Road in north Wilmington.
Construction firm EDiS completed the renovations in a quick six months – unusual for a project so large.
“It’s a huge visual change,” said EDiS Senior Project Manager Martha White standing in the atrium lobby today. “It went from a 1980’s building to a 2020 building.” Soft curves and other architectural aspects of the interior design are meant to evoke feelings of water and movement. The building was also constructed with sustainable materials, automatic LED lighting that adjusts to light outdoors and non-VOC paint.
Panichella painted an analogy for the type of work his company does by reminding people in attendance about the cup of coffee they had this morning. If they drank out of a paper cup, that cup will end up in a landfill.
“The paper cup you drank your coffee out of is not recyclable because it has a plastic liner in it. We invented a technology that is going to allow people that produce those cups to replace the plastic liner with a water-based coating, making that cup compostable and recyclable. Those are the kinds of technologies we are working on,” said Panichella.
Solenis also sells its technology to the world’s largest retailer. “If you have received a package in the mail from Amazon, our materials make it strong and water-resistant,” said Panichella.
The company head added that Solenis, with 350 employees in Delaware, remains focused on environmental sustainability is now tackling single-use plastics. “Our customers in the packaging space are being inundated with requests for us to help them develop solutions to replace plastic-based packaging with fiber-based packaging. They can’t do that without our technologies.”
Solenis employs approximately 5,200 professionals in 120 countries across five continents. Many of their 250 researchers are located in Wilmington. The research and development will continue to work out of leased space at Ashland Chemical on Hercules Road.
Executives, global managers and departments such as human resources, marketing, IT and customer service are now working out of the new space at Avenue North.
Solenis produces specialty chemicals for industries such as pulp, paper, oil and gas, petroleum refining, mining, and other water-dependent industries. The company has acquired several others in its market segment in its 100 years in business, including Drew, Betz Laboratories, Hercules, Stockhausen, Ashland Water Technologies and BASF’s paper and water chemicals business.