DuPont Co. says it is consolidating its headquarters offices, located since the World War I era in a high-rise complex fronting the north side of Rodney Square in the heart of Wilmington, to the company's suburban Chestnut Run Plaza complex west of the city, effective July 1.
NEW: The company plans to move between 800-1,000 workers from the DuPont Building out to Chestnut Run; another 800-1,000 will remain, for the time being, with DuPont's Performance Chemicals business, spokesman Daniel A. Turner told me. DuPont is spinning off that unit as part of a new company, Chemours (they say it "KEM-oars"), which has not yet chosen a permanent headquarters. Company statement here.
The move comes as the city, Delaware's largest, struggles with drug-trade slum violence, bank consolidation that has left some other downtown offices empty, and a tight public budget. I asked DuPont's Turner if Wilmington city taxes, services or operating costs had been part of the company's calculation in moving out. Turner said the consolidation "was driven more by" the company's reorganization of its properties as part of the Chemours separation. In a statement, Wilmington Mayor Dennis P. Williams, a former city police officer, said the move could be good for the city in the long run.
New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon, the former county police chief, said the move was the latest step in DuPont's long exit from the city and state, which he blamed on foreign competition, free-trade pacts and activist investors like DuPont shareholder Nelson Peltz, who has pushed for lower costs and higher profits.
Chemours, which accounts for around $7 billion of DuPont's $35 billion in yearly sales, will take over the DuPont Building and will be based there for the time being as it considers where to base its permanent headquarters. Another recent DuPont spinoff, Axalta Corp., moved its offices out of Delaware north to Philadelphia and Glen Mills, Pa. "The consolidation of DuPont corporate headquarters at Chestnut Run will optimize use of company facilities, support collaboration and improve efficiencies for both DuPont and Chemours," DuPont said in its statement.
DuPont will continue to operate the Hotel du Pont and the DuPont Theatre at its old Rodney Square headquarters, as well as the DuPont Country Club in the nearby suburbs, spokesman Turner told me. The Performance Chemicals spin-off is one of the steps urged on the company by activist investor Nelson Peltz, who says DuPont shares have underperformed for years and the company needs to boost profits or separate its businesses so they can fetch higher prices. DuPont has not acted on other activist suggestions such as divesting the theater, hotel and club, which the company says are a very small part of its overall business.
Neither the company nor the city government provided any data on the impact of DuPont's move on city finances or company costs. "For more than a century, we have been proud to call the city of Wilmington home," DuPont chairman and CEO Ellen J. Kullman, a suburban Wilmington native, said in a statement. But, she added, "looking ahead, we concluded that a single location for our headquarters offices will help facilitate the close collaboration essential to our success and to the growth of DuPont. A consolidated headquarters at Chestnut Run where most of DuPont's businesses are headquartered will make it possible to draw on people and knowledge across the company even more dynamically, on a daily basis."
The company also noted the new HQ is close to the Brandywine Creek site where the company's immigrant founder, E.I. du Pont de Nemours, set up his gunpowder factory in 1802, and just down Delaware Route 141 from the DuPont Experimental Station laboratories occupied by DuPont scientists and engineers, partners, and spin-off companies. DuPont also operates the Stine-Haskell Research Center near Newark, Del.
The company, once Delaware's dominant economic and social force and its largest employer, has in recent years sold its former Seaford, Del. nylon works and sold or spun off other plants around the state; its Edge Moor titanium-dioxide works on the Delaware north of Wilmington will be part of Chemours.