By John Reid Blackwell, Richmond Times-Dispatch
Evonik Industries, a Germany-based chemicals maker with operations in the Richmond area, has opened a new business and innovation center in Chesterfield County.
The company first announced plans early in 2014 to invest more than $15 million to renovate a building in the Chesterfield Airport Industrial Park to serve as a research and development facility.
The center now employs about 125 people, Evonik officials said Tuesday at an event at the center attended by more than 100 local and state government officials, Evonik executives and others.
“Our intention is to turn Evonik into one of the most innovative companies in the world,” Klaus Engel, chairman of the company’s executive board, said at the event. “For that purpose, we will invest not less than $4 billion in research and development over the next 10 years globally.”
The company, which has numerous offices and plants in the U.S., relocated its research and development operations from a leased building in Hopewell into the 93,000-square-foot building on Whitepine Road.
Evonik also has a manufacturing plant in Hopewell.
The company makes specialty chemicals such as surfactants that are used in many consumer products including household cleaners, shampoo, sunscreen, lotions, laundry detergent and fabric softeners. It also develops additives that improve the efficiency of herbicides and fungicides, and additives for coatings and paint that reduce the amount of volatile chemicals in the products.
“We look for more sustainable, more environmentally favorable products that do their job at the right cost and performance profile,” said David DelGuercio, senior vice president and general manager of Evonik’s North American Nutrition and Care division.
The new site gives the company the ability to do research locally that its former Hopewell research site could not house, he said.
“This site has the ability to do what we called wet process chemistry, meaning reaction chemistry,” he said. “We can actually create molecules here, and we have not had that in Virginia.”
The building was formerly occupied by a product research subsidiary of the Henrico County-based tobacco giant Philip Morris USA, which put the site up for sale in 2009.
Evonik bought and renovated the building to serve its research needs and to house interdisciplinary teams that include sales, marketing, procurement, information technology, safety and health.
“We wanted to go with a more open workspace environment to be very collaborative,” DelGuercio said. “What we found is the younger generation is very much into open and collaborative workspaces.”