Datwyler Sealing Solutions Chooses Delaware for $100 Million Facility

When Datwyler Sealing Solutions decided to expand its manufacturing and distribution capabilities in North America, the Swiss company’s site selection criteria were quite specific. After considering locations across the United States, company leaders concluded that Middletown, Delaware, was the optimal location for its new $100 million, 200,000 sq. ft. manufacturing plant.

“We identified a handful of areas across the country that might satisfy our needs, “says Frank Schoubben, site director of the company’s new Middletown, DE, plant. He served as a member of the team tasked with selecting the new U.S. site.

Datwyler, a more than 100-year-old firm headquartered in the heart of the Swiss Alps, began as a manufacturer of rubber products, including tires. Today, however, Datwyler Holding owns 50 business entities, with sales in over 100 countries and employing more than 8,000 employees. Its product line includes a broad range of rubber stoppers, aluminum seals, plungers, combiseals, tip caps and needle shields used in pharmaceutical products, medical devices and for diagnostic research and drug development. Datwyler Sealing Solutions also makes products for the automotive business, consumer goods, oil & gas, and general industries.

The new Middletown plant, opened in 2018, is dedicated to Datwyler’s proprietary clean-room technology dubbed “FirstLine.” The technology is aimed at eliminating contamination in the manufacturing process, a critical concern in the pharmaceutical and medical devices industries.

During the site selection process, location was first on the list of Datwyler’s critical considerations. The site had to be near the company’s major customers in the pharmaceutical and medical devices industries. Sites across the continental United States were under consideration, but Datwyler was especially interested in locations in the tri-state area of New York, Delaware, and New Jersey, an epicenter of the American pharma industry.

In addition to geographic concerns, the company knew it would need to hire in excess of 100 employees with a variety of technical and business skills. So, a critical element of the search process was a survey of educational resources that would be nearby and responsive to Datwyler’s requirements.

Finally, the new site had to be near a major, international airport.

In the end, Middletown, Delaware, made the cut. 

A native of Belgium, Schoubben holds a master’s degree in industrial engineering and electrical mechanics with a specialty in polymers. A 16-year veteran of Datwyler, he has worked at company sites around the world. Most importantly, he led a greenfield site project in India, so he has lived through – and mastered – the tricky process of managing the technical and regulatory details of site selection.

“A number of things attracted us to Delaware. Of course, its proximity to our customers, many of whom are in New Jersey, was a key factor,” says Schoubben. “There are about 100 colleges and universities within a 2-hour drive from Delaware, so we knew we would have an attractive pool of well-educated people to satisfy our hiring needs.”

While technical competency is a requirement for employment with companies like Datwyler, so-called “soft skills” are also in demand. “A key objective of our hiring process is to identify people we can groom as future leaders,” says Schoubben. “We are engaged in that search now and expect to hire a total of 120 employees for this site.”

“We appreciate and admire Delaware’s historic ties to the chemical industry and manufacturing,” says Schoubben.  “And, of course, the scale of business and industrial growth in the Middletown area made it clear that this area welcomes companies like ours.”

Once Delaware emerged as the leading contender, Datwyler reached out to state economic development officials to explore the feasibility of locating in the Middletown area.

“Our experience was great,” Schoubben says. “It was very easy to establish open communications with state and local officials.”

He says they helped the company overcome potential barriers to obtaining permits and navigating regulatory workstreams. Because of their extensive experience, Delaware officials were able to arrange key contacts, make introductions and sequence events so that the overall process flowed smoothly.

“It’s been a good ride for us,” says Schoubben. “We continue to have good relationships with state and local officials and they continue to provide support when we need it. The fact that it took only 18 months from groundbreaking to grand opening is really notable. This is a winner for us!”

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