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INVISTA to explore vacating Nylon Capital of the World

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Seaford's INVISTA is looking to explore strategic options./PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING

Seaford’s INVISTA is looking to explore strategic options./PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING

SEAFORD — Twenty years after Koch Industries, Inc. acquired the Seaford Invista facility from DuPont for $4.4 billion, the nylon polymer manufacturer released a statement expressing its “intent to explore strategic alternatives for its nylon fibers business.”

Invista, which kept its name after the previous sale, recently announced the company’s interest in selling “Invista’s fiber-focused portfolio: airbag and industrial fibers, the Cordura businesses, and five supporting global manufacturing locations: Seaford, Del., Martinsville, Va.; Kingston, Ontario, Canada; Gloucester, UK; and Qingpu, China.”

The future for the Seaford plant, as well as the four others, however, is unclear. The company also stated it will not sell if it doesn’t find a good fit.

“Consistent with our principle based management business philosophy, Invista continuously assesses the external value of assets to make sure they are owned by the company best positioned to grow the business,” Invista President and CEO Francis Murphy stated. “Nylon fibers is a great business, and we believe there are other companies with different focus and capabilities that could create even greater value with those assets. If, however, through this process, we find that other companies don’t value it more highly, we’ll continue to operate the business.” 

Barclays was chosen as the exclusive financial advisor for this exploration phase, according to Invistia

Sussex County ties

The Seaford location claimed home to nylon production far before two Koch subsidiaries purchased the property in 2004. Known as the DuPont Nylon Plant, and eventually DuPont Textiles & Interiors, the Delaware-based company originally opened the doors to its six-floor,  nylon processing plant in December 1939 with 850 workers.

This move set the world record as the World’s First Nylon Plant and, with that, Seaford became officially known as the Nylon Capital of the World. 

Sussex Economic Development Action Committee Chair Joe Conaway told the Delaware Business Times that the plant had grown to “well over 4,000 employees” over the years. 

“That’s when it was the DuPont plant. When you worked there, you could promise your son your job. I mean, it was well done,” he said. “I was told that the competition among the towns in Western Sussex was vicious to get it. They [DuPont] wanted water and needed water for the process and Seaford actually had a port to run it. It was a Godsend to the county.”

According to Delaware Public Archives, Seaford ended up being a great fit as it was close to the materials, markets and DuPont’s headquarters in Wilmington. 

The importance of the nylon plant was codified on Oct. 26, 1995, when the American Chemical Society designated the location a National Historic Chemical Landmark before Invista took control of the facility. At the time, there were around 650 employees left at what was then the DuPont location.

“The numbers are now down to about 400 employees, maybe less than that. They’re still good jobs and it’s important to the economy. We just wish it was 4,000 again,” Conaway said.

DuPont went on to change the name of the Sussex County facility to Invista shortly before its  $4.4 billion sale to the two Koch subsidiaries in 2004. At the time, the plant produced primarily nylon and spandex, along with the Lycra and Stainmaster brands, and claimed $6.3 billion in sales, or 25% of DuPont’s revenue, according to The New York Times. DuPont agreed to sell the facility to focus on newer technology such as flat screen computer technology. 

During its 75th anniversary in 2014, Invista celebrated the plant’s approximately 648 acres located adjacent to the Nanticoke River, 80 acres which was designated as a wildlife habitat and 146 acres which had been donated to the Nanticoke River Watershed Conservancy.

Invista did not return requests for comment by the Delaware Business Times.

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