Bear chemical company to expand, add jobs
BEAR – When the former owner of IMS Chemblend, a specialty chemical blending and packaging company, sought to retire last year, the small firm faced an uncertain future.
All of that changed after former customer the Royale Group, a collection of specialty chemical companies, along with an investment partner acquired IMS Chemblend in September.
New owners John Logue and Gene Fatula have since renamed the company to AWSM Solutions Delaware (pronounced Awesome), and are looking to expand the company through a $1 million investment in equipment, machinery and upgrades to the existing Porter Road building, as well as the addition of 17 new jobs.
On Jan. 25, the state’s investment board, the Council on Development Finance, unanimously approved a $129,750 incentive package for their effort, including a $99,750 job performance grant for the creation of the new positions and a capital expenditure grant of $30,000.
Logue’s Royale Group has been successful in recent years, even earning the 2019 Distributor of the Year award from the National Association of Chemical Distributors, but he said they are seeking to adjust their business model.
“A couple years ago, we decided to start changing our business model from a traditional import-export chemical distributor to more of a manufacturing company,” Logue told CDF members. “The reason is that supply chains out of Asia and other countries were getting very difficult to manage, not only on the supply chain, but in the quality, the stewardship and other influences.”
AWSM Solutions will continue its former Chemblend operations, while adding in some lighter manufacturing products that it used to source overseas, Logue said.
Among its corporate customers are major industry names like Dow, 3M, and PPG, and it produces raw materials used in anesthesia and chemicals that are a part of electrostatic antiseptic spray, which have become more common in the fight against the COVID-19 virus, Logue said. At the other end of the product spectrum, AWSM Solutions also supplies the Delaware Transit Corporation with cleaner, disinfectant, and even windshield wiper fluid for every DART transit bus on the road.
“We really want to expand our specialty high-end formulating and we see Delaware as a great place to do it,” he added. “And we believe that what is made in Delaware should be used in Delaware.”
Having already hired 11 employees at the Bear site, Logue said that he expected to reach the 17-hire quota by the end of 2021, although the incentive package offered by the state gives the company several years to fulfill that mark. Fatula noted that the majority of the remaining hires will come through the addition of a second shift after the build-out and training period.
“We’ve already instituted a $15 an hour minimum wage; we think that’s a very crucial part of our model. We don’t want unskilled workers, we want very skilled chemical operators,” Logue said, noting that investment leads to better safety, quality and productivity.
In a statement, New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer welcomed the company’s expansion and said the county was “looking forward to working with ASWM to create quality job opportunities in our communities.”
As part of the expansion efforts, AWSM Solutions is moving its corporate office from Paramus, N.J., down to the Bear site. The company did reportedly look at relocating to other sites, including in Pennsylvania, but the principals decided that the First State was the best fit.
“The location in Delaware was very strategic for us, due to the base of the business, the business environment in Delaware, cost of living, skill set of employees, and the resources offered by the state of Delaware and DPP sealed the deal,” Logue said.