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ILC Dover moves HQ to UD STAR campus

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The six-story Tower at STAR on the University of Delaware’s STAR campus recently landed ILC Dover as a tenant for its top floor. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS.

NEWARK — ILC Dover, a world-leading specialized engineering development and manufacturing company, has relocated its headquarters to the top floor of the Tower at STAR on the University of Delaware’s STAR campus.

Although there is no set timeline for fully moving operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ILC Dover will relocate its corporate office as well as finance and commercial operations to the six-story, 120,000-square-foot building on UD’s Science Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) campus located off Route 896.

ILC Dover President and CEO Fran DiNuzzo envisions this office serving as a base for customer appointments while freeing up space in the company’s Frederica facility. Staffing figures have not been finalized for relocation, but the top floor of the Tower would have enough room for up to 50 employees.

“Kent County is a wonderful place to be if you’re in manufacturing or logistics, and Frederica has been great for us,” DiNuzzo told Delaware Business Times. “This move is really about space. We realized in a year or so, we would run out of space, so we started looking at a variety of spaces in New Castle County to have a greater access to airports as well as the university.”

Founded in 1947, ILC Dover specializes in the use of high-performance flexible materials, serving the aerospace, personal protection, and pharmaceutical industries. The company’s claim to fame has been its production of every U.S. astronaut space suit since the Apollo mission, but it has also thrived during the pandemic in part because of demand for the Sentinel XL respirator system.

In early 2020, ILC Dover announced it would hire up to 50 additional employees, which pushed its Delaware employee base to about 460 by October, according to DBT records. DiNuzzo told DBT it has continued to hire in the last nine months of the pandemic, while its strict work-from-home policies have maintained production lines and kept employees safe.

“We were almost tripping over ourselves in the Frederica headquarters, it was pretty crowded. When the pandemic hit, all our non-production and manufacturing employees were sent home to limit exposure. That has worked out well for us,” he said. “With the new headquarters, this will eventually give engineers more space for product and to grow our production line.”

Although Kent County has direct access to Route 1 and U.S. Route 13 for distribution needs, ILC Dover was looking for space in New Castle County due to its short distance to Philadelphia International Airport and the burgeoning New Castle Airport, which is scheduled to restart round-trip service to Florida this year. After about a year of looking, ILC Dover turned to Delle Donne & Associates, owner of the Tower at STAR, to design an ideal space in a deal brokered by Newmark.

“It was pretty much a blank space, so we started to work with Delle Done to suit our needs. It’s mainly flex space with offices and cubicles, but a boardroom was important to have. Not a lot of customers visit down in Kent County, so having that boardroom was important, and it’s got a tremendous view of the UD campus,” DiNuzzo said.

The proximity to UD was also key to ILC Dover’s relocation, as the company has been a tremendous resource for the university’s mechanical engineering and pharmaceutical institute in the past. In turn, about half of ILC Dover’s engineers are UD graduates and 80% of its interns are UD students.

“Recognizing that since recruiting and retaining top-notch talent was the driving factor, the top floor of the Tower at STAR made the most impact for ILC Dover,” said Wills Elliman, Newmark senior managing director who represented ILC Dover in the transaction.

Built in 2018, the Tower has about 4.5 million square feet of inventory with a 11.4% vacancy rate and about 5,872 square feet absorbed in the third quarter of 2020, according to Newmark. The STAR Campus has two other high-rises and tenants including UD, Bloom Energy, SevOne, the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals, and the Chemours Discovery Hub. A $38 million FinTech Center is expected to open in early 2022.

By Katie Tabeling

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