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Maryland water testing co. eyes Glasgow plant

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GLASGOW – A Maryland water quality testing chemical and equipment company plans to develop a 79,000-square-foot research, development and production facility, which would more than double its current staffing while eventually creating 104 new jobs.

LaMotte Chemical Products Co., based in Chestertown, Md., plans to invest about $3.3 million into redeveloping a former Siemens Healthineers lab in the Pencader Corporate Center off Route 896, building more than 29,000 square feet of new, modern lab space.

On Monday morning, the 103-year-old firm was unanimously approved for more than $1.2 million in taxpayer-backed grants by the state’s investment board, the Council on Development Finance, to choose Delaware for the project. Those funds include about $1 million from the Graduated Lab Space Grant Fund and about $190,000 for a performance-based grant to create the proposed jobs.

The company serves a wide range of industries including pool, spa, drinking water, industrial water, food and beverage, sanitation, water and wastewater, and aquarium and fish farming. It started by making test kits that use reagents to change the color of water to display pH balances or other characteristics.

While it was founded in Baltimore in 1919, it moved to its current location about 30 minutes west of Middletown in Kent County, Md., in the 1960s after outgrowing its first home. There, it developed test strips commonly used in pH testing and later electronic meters that increased the accuracy of that procedure.

LaMotte CEO Scott Amsbaugh | PHOTO COURTESY OF STATE OF DELAWARE

About a decade ago, it developed an even more sophisticated electronic reader for samples that has been “critical” to its high-end user market, according to LaMotte President and CEO Scott Amsbaugh. That product has helped drive a nearly 25% growth in sales in recent years, officials said.

About a year ago, the firm started running out of space at its Chestertown headquarters and was having trouble finding staff, according to LaMotte President and CEO Scott Amsbaugh. That convinced LaMotte to begin looking throughout the Mid-Atlantic, with another site in Pennsylvania a finalist.

LaMotte ended up focusing on the site in Glasgow because it wanted to be within 90 minutes of its existing site – some of its executive staff will split time between the sites – and it needs access to a highly educated and skilled workforce, ability to build out R&D space, and have access to major international shipping routes, Amsbaugh said.

“With the backlog we have, we really want to do this fast and move these plans along as fast as possible. This grant would really go a long way to allow us to do that,” he said. “We want to build out the lab and production and start shipping from the new site later this year.”

LaMotte aims to hire about 57 employees at the Delaware site in its first year, essentially doubling its current workforce, Amsbaugh said. The firm plans to employ about 104 people by the third year of the grant.

While it aims to hire researchers and scientists from University of Delaware graduates, Amsbaugh added that the firm would have skilled production and maintenance roles for graduates from Delaware Technical Community College and the state’s vocational schools as well.

“We have a very skilled maintenance staff that does preventative maintenance and reactive maintenance on all our automated equipment, and I see that increasing over time as we automate more steps in our production process and just are reliant on a higher volume of equipment,” he said.

In a Monday statement released after the CDF vote, Gov. John Carney heralded the decision of the Maryland company to invest in the First State.

“We are working hard to make Delaware more competitive so that we can compete and win every day. That means making sure we have the best environment so businesses like LaMotte Company can grow and thrive here in Delaware. We are excited for this expansion and the new jobs it will bring. This investment shows that Delaware remains in demand for manufacturing and innovative development,” he said.

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