It took less than a year for Ashland Specialty Products, a manufacturer of chemicals used in consumer products, to convert laboratories at the former Sanofi plant on Route 202/206 to meet its needs, and on Friday, the company held a ribbon-cutting event to celebrate the company's new 200,000 square foot research center.
The center houses development and testing facilities for the company, which produces products ranging from toothpaste and Scope mouthwash, to Scrubbing Bubbles cleaners.
The Bridgewater site was announced in March 2013, after state and local officials convinced the company to keep operations in New Jersey after it had announced plans to shutter a Wayne facility.
"We worked very hard as a team to change this facility," Bridgewater Economic Development Officer Howard Turbowitz said. "We worked behind-the-scenes with Sanofi and Ashland."
The center is located in the 1.2 million square foot New Jersey Center of Excellence, renamed after Sanofi moved out of the facility. The township has been working on bringing in new tenants for the space, with Ashland following a 100,000 square foot lease by AmNeal Pharmaceutical.
Friday's ribbing cutting was attended by company President Luis Fernandez-Moreno, U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance, R-7th Dist., and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.
Rep. Lance and Lt. Gov. Guadagno saluted the area's highly-skilled labor force, which she said was likely behind the company's decision to stay in New Jersey.
“With New Jersey’s highly skilled and educated workforce and proactive approach to business, the Garden State provides an ideal location for some of the largest chemical manufacturing and science companies in the nation,” Lt. Gov. Guadagno said. “The Christie Administration is proud that Ashland Specialty Ingredients will continue to call New Jersey home for its global research labs and personal care center of excellence as they work toward shaping the future of specialty chemicals.”
The Bridgewater center will employ about 300, many of whom were moved from the Wayne location. Bridgewater's proximity to the company's customers was stated as a plus for the relocation.
“The Bridgewater site is close to many of our largest customers, especially in the pharmaceutical and personal care markets," Fernandez-Moreno said.
Rep. Lance added "this really is the center, not only for this region of the country but across the country, for chemical and for related industries," adding the industries employ more in his district than in any other Congressional district in the nation.
"And Kim (Lt. Gov. Guadagno) and I are going to keep it that way," he emphasized.
After the ribbon cutting, the invited guests—which also included Bridgewater Council President Matthew Moench and members Allen Kurdyla, Howard Norgalis and Felipe Pedroso—enjoyed a lunch and tour of the facility.
“This is exactly the type of high quality company that is particularly suited to Bridgewater," Moench said. "We look forward to a great working relationship with them for many years to come.”
He added a zoning change passed by the Township Council in August 2012 helped open the door for Ashland’s move amending the zoning to permit multiple tenants to occupy portions of the site.
“When we amended the zoning laws in 2012, this is exactly what we hoped to do—attract jobs to Bridgewater, especially jobs that compliment our existing corporate residents, such as the pharmaceutical industry," Norgalis said.
Ashland Specialty Products parent company Ashland Inc. is based in Covington, Ky., and reported worldwide sales of more than $8.2 billion in 2012, with $2.9 billion is sales derived from the Specialty Products division. The division is the top global producer of cellulose ethers and is a global leader in vinyl pyrrolidones—products are derived from plant and seed extract using both natural and semisynthetic polymers.