Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and other local dignitaries Thursday celebrated the opening of German specialty chemicals company Evonik’s new Innovation Hub, which is poised to create 50 jobs in Upper Macungie.
Evonik Industries is an international leader in specialty chemicals manufacturing, which includes the making of amino acids and building protection coatings. The company serves makers of coatings, pharmaceuticals, and plastics in more than 100 countries worldwide with more than 33,000 employees, including more than 300 employees at the regional facility.
The new 30,000-square-foot Innovation Hub consists of several state-of-the-art product testing and processing labs, as well as a pilot plant. The “High Performance Polymers” lab will allow the processing and testing of plastics for 3D printing and medical implants. Another lab will enable the formulation and testing of additives for industrial coatings. There’s also testing of performance foams for airplanes or cars.
The hub’s “best-in-class” polyurethane spray foam testing and emission chamber helps Evonik customers meet environmental and emission standards, said Tracey Mole, vice president of the Business & Innovation Center at the regional site. The hub additionally features a newly-designed collaboration space to support a hybrid and creative work environment.
Wolf in opening remarks called the hub a way to build on Pennsylvania’s strength as a center for advanced manufacturing. Evonik in 2017 acquired the sprawling 41-acre property along Hamilton Boulevard from Upper Macungie-based industrial gas producer, Air Products. Evonik received a funding proposal from the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development for $150,000 in tax credits and a $2.5 million grant from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, according to the state.
Evonik additionally invested more than $50 million into the project. The company ended up selecting Upper Macungie for expansion rather than relocating the operation to a company location in another state.
“I’m proud to have invested $2.5 million in this Innovation Hub that will bring new, good-paying jobs to the Allentown region,” Wolf said.
The 50 new job positions include scientists, engineers and lab technicians. The company plans to pay an average $90,000 annually, Evonik representatives told lehighvalleylive.com.
The hub also will serve as part of a broader globalization strategy for research, development and Innovation at Evonik.
“We are strengthening regional RD&I hubs in Asia and North America to benefit from innovative ideas outside of Europe and be closer to our customers in those regions,” said Ute Wolf, Evonik’s chief financial officer. “The new hub will transform the Allentown (area) site into our premier center for research, business and innovation in North America.”
Ute Wolf said 23% of annual sales in 2021 came from North America, making it the second-largest revenue source for the company after Europe. Evonik has invested several billion in North America since acquiring the site six years ago, Ute Wolf said. The company’s North America headquarters is in Parsippany, New Jersey.
“Allentown (area) has been an increasingly important part of our footprint ever since,” said Bonnie Tully, president of Evonik’s North America region. “The opening of our ‘Innovation Hub’ marks the next phase of our growth trajectory in North America.”
The Innovation Hub also features a flexible collaboration space to support and enhance a hybrid work environment. It offers open areas for employees to work onsite without the need for individual offices. Employees have access to such cutting-edge technology as digital whiteboards and tools for video conferencing.
“The collaboration space promotes interactions across our business lines and functions,” Mole said. “It will shape the future of work at Evonik and contribute to our culture of innovation.”
Ralph Marquardt, Evonik’s chief innovation officer, said addressing current global challenges requires the worldwide collaboration of competent partners. He credited North America’s thriving ecosystem for research and development due to world-class universities; innovative companies; and an entrepreneurial startup scene.
“We are looking forward to developing innovative solutions together,” Marquardt said.
U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, D-Lehigh Valley, said she was proud to see an international company like Evonik recognize the strategic strengths of having a significant presence in the Allentown area. She noted the new hub’s proximity to major metropolitan areas; highly skilled workforce; and long history of embracing manufacturing and innovation.
“We are poised to ensure Evonik’s next phase of growth results in success for Evonik, our economy, and the community,” Wild said.
Mole in a separate interview with lehighvalleylive.com following the ceremony said there’s room to expand and build more on the sprawling property if needed in the future. The acquisition by Evonik retained Air Products’ more than 200 existing jobs at the site and across the state.
Expansion plans, however, go beyond just creating job opportunities.
The company recently donated $100,000 to support the Women in Science & Engineering Initiative at the Da Vinci Science Center, Allentown’s award-winning science museum. The initiative was established as part of the science center’s broader commitment in supporting women and girls in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, also known as STEM.
The donation highlights Evonik’s ongoing support of education and diversity in STEM fields, Mole said.
Through the Governor’s Action Team, which coordinated Evonik’s $2.5 million grant, Wolf has invested nearly $17.8 billion over the past seven years. The governor has partnered with nearly 430 companies to create and retain more than 191,000 jobs for Pennsylvanians.
The economic output of manufacturing in Pennsylvania rose from $85 billion in 2016 to more than $92 billion in 2021, according to the governor’s office.
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Pamela Sroka-Holzmann may be reached at email@example.com.