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Solenis to build $35M center at CRISP campus

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The Chestnut Run Innovation & Science Park (CRISP) has scored its second new acquisition as chemical company Solenis plans to invest about $35 million into a new R&D center on the Wilmington-area campus. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

WILMINGTON – Solenis, the global producer of specialty chemicals used in water-intensive industries, has outgrown its leased research-and-development space, and is now looking to invest more than $35 million to build a new center at the Chestnut Run Innovation & Science Park.

Solenis, a water treatment firm headquartered at Avenue North in the Wilmington suburbs, was acquired in a $5.25 billion private equity deal last year. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

The company, which was acquired by a California-based private equity investment firm last fall for $5.25 billion, emerged from former Hercules and Ashland water treatment divisions dating back to 1907, launching its current iteration in 2015. Solenis added the former BASF company in a 2019 deal to significantly grow its reach and footprint.

While it opened a global headquarters at the Avenue North campus in Fairfax two years ago, Solenis has continued to lease about 80,000 square feet of labs at the Ashland campus near Greenville. As the company has aggressively grown in recent years, it has stretched its leased space and now needs a new home to continue growing.

It plans to build a 102,000-square-foot R&D center at the CRISP campus, the former DuPont research campus off Route 141 being redeveloped by Pennsylvania-based firm MRA Group. It will bring its roughly 140 researchers from the Ashland site to the new CRISP center once completed, while also hiring up to 46 additional employees, including lab technicians, scientists and R&D supervisors, to work in about 70,000 square feet of labs. It has reportedly signed a 16-year lease with CRISP.

After reviewing several sites around the region, Phil Patterson, chief financial officer of Solenis, said that CRISP is an “ideal location” for the company.

“We really liked that it’s in the state and close to the headquarters,” he said, noting that existing employees would not have to move far. “And we’d like the vision of what that campus is.”

It would be the second major investment at CRISP since the project began about a year ago, after Wilmington-based biopharma firm Prelude Therapeutics selected the site for its first headquarters late last year.

An early look at the future Solenis center at CRISP was presented Monday. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

“MRA is elated that Solenis has decided to relocate their R&D center to our CRISP Campus, joining Prelude Therapeutics and DuPont, bringing the campus to nearly 400,000 square feet leased within the first 11 months of ownership,” Mike Wojewodka, executive vice president of MRA Group, said in a statement to Delaware Business Times. “Our vision for the campus, its convenient location, educated workforce, and proposed amenities are compelling reasons for innovative and scientific companies to consider CRISP.”

Solenis is targeting the aging research building No. 713 on the Chestnut Run campus to strip down and build a contemporary lab and office campus.

To support the project, the state’s job investment board, the Council on Development Finance, unanimously approved a $3.5 million lab space grant to help build the space and a $552,000 job performance grant to support the hiring of the 46 new employees. 

“Solenis chose to build their global water technologies in Wilmington. This week’s announcement shows their continued commitment to our state and workforce,” Gov. John Carney said in a statement. “Solenis will expand its research and development operations to a 100,000-square-foot building. Thank you to Solenis for continuing to strengthen Delaware’s workforce and science and technology sector.”

The company has three major target industries: pool treatment, industrial water treatment and commercial water-intensive products, including paper-based products like cardboard, tissue paper and paper towels. How that paper product is treated in the manufacturing process can help make tissues softer or cardboard sturdier.

Solenis Chief Financial Officer Philip Patterson, right, addresses the Council on Development Finance while Solenis Treasurer Kees Saarlos listens. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

“If your house is anything like mine, there’s usually a box on your doorstep every day. That box delivered by Amazon or other brands is showing how our cardboard is strong enough to hold the contents of that box,” Patterson said.

After a busy year of acquisitions around the world, Solenis now has 49 manufacturing facilities worldwide and employs over 6,400 in 120 countries across five continents, including about 300 in Delaware.

The company has twice been approved for grants from the taxpayer-backed Strategic Fund, including $1.1 million in 2015 to create 122 jobs and for $3.9 million in 2018 to help build its Wilmington-area headquarters and retain jobs here.

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