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September 20, 2019Cart

Business

by Fairfield County Business Journal
by FCBJ

Henkel in Stamford: Seamless move, room for expansion

Moving your North American headquarters across the country — and consolidating some 425 employees from three different bases — is no small feat. But according to Achim Kempf, vice president of integration at consumer goods multinational Henkel, the effort has been fairly seamless.

CEO Hans van Bylen greets employees.

“First you had two cultures coming together,” Kempf said at Henkel’s new North American Consumer Goods headquarters at 200 Elm St. in Stamford. “About one-third are existing employees who made the move (from former headquarters Scottsdale, Arizona) and a third are from Sun Products,” the Wilton laundry and home-care items company that Henkel acquired last year for $3.6 billion.

The third component is new hires, which Kempf said amount to around 260 across its different divisions, which include beauty care R&D, human resources, finance, legal, IT, purchasing and corporate communications.

Despite “a couple of headaches,” Kempf said that the disparate groups have quickly become used to working together as a single unit. “At the end of the day it was
fairly simple.”

The German company has taken over three floors totaling 155,000 square feet at the BLT Financial Centre. The first floor is dedicated to beauty care R&D, which when completed will encompass a laboratory for the development and clinical testing of such products as Dial soap, Right Guard antiperspirant/deodorant, Schwarzkopf hair care and göt2b styling products.

The area will also include a learning center to develop and test product formulations and product packaging, a clinical testing facility and a “hair learning” salon; consumers will be offered the opportunity to participate in product trials and focus groups, according to Senior Vice President of Human Resources Gretchen Crist.

That area is planned to open by the end of the year, Crist said.

The fifth floor houses Henkel’s beauty care division, while laundry and home care are on the sixth floor. Each includes the relevant administrative departments such as accounting, legal and human resources.

The move — Henkel officially opened in Stamford on Aug. 22 — was undertaken “not because we were running from anything” in Scottsdale, she said, but was driven by the Sun purchase and Henkel’s long-established presence in Rocky Hill, where it maintains its adhesive technologies and research and development departments and employs 400, and in Trumbull, the location of a Sun Products R&D facility.

In February, the company announced that it was expanding its Trumbull presence by acquiring 24,000 square feet at 4 Trefoil Drive, adjacent to its existing R&D facility at 30 Trefoil Drive. Work should be completed by the end of November; employees will total 100.

“The proximity to other consumer product goods companies, and to New York, were also seen as a plus when it comes to attracting talent,” she said, noting that Henkel still has “about 50 open roles” that it hopes
to fill shortly.

While New York was also considered, Henkel ultimately focused on Fairfield County for the above reasons and on Stamford for being “such an incredible community,” Crist said. “It’s very vibrant with a lot of things that are very attractive for millennials, including the train
station nearby.”

Henkel is already actively promoting itself as a solid corporate citizen, she said, noting not just its participation in a recent Oktoberfest celebration with other Financial Centre residents like RSM and, at the attached tower at 695 E. Main St., Deloitte, but also the testimonial it gave for inclusion in the Stamford region’s recent pitch to become home to Amazon’s second headquarters.

Incentives were also a significant factor. The move included the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development’s providing financial support through the First Five Plus program with a 10-year, $20 million low-interest loan to support the project; Henkel invested $30 million.

In addition, the company may be eligible for up to $5 million in tax credits through the Urban and Industrial Sites Reinvestment Tax Credit program, which allows a dollar-to-dollar corporate tax credit of up to 100 percent of capital investment on eligible projects.

The new HQ favors an “open space” approach, designed to foster collaboration. Rooms ranging from the standard meeting space to small “phone booths” available for single workers and “focus rooms” that can accommodate a handful of employees looking for quieter environments can be electronically reserved through Outlook. Dining is encouraged to take place in a community space on the first floor, according to Corporate Communications Manager Daniel Carpenter.

“The idea is to not be tied to your desk all day,” he said.

Although products like Snuggle fabric softener, All laundry detergent and Combat roach bait may not scream “high-tech,” that’s very much the approach at the Stamford location. A $19,000 Microsoft Surface Hub, which allows three people to comfortably interact with the screen simultaneously, incorporating inking and advanced touch capabilities via an 84-inch touch screen, allows for instantaneous 3-D analysis of products and various document- and video-editing capabilities; a similar, 55-inch system costing $9,000 is running in Rocky Hill.

A “Telepresence” room is also available, which can link 18 international offices via a high-resolution screen that goes well beyond the standard Skype session. A Telepresence call uses roughly twice the bandwidth of a typical streaming HD movie on Netflix, said Greg Wolf, manager, Henkel Videoconference & Audio Visual Services North America.

Such moves, said Scott Lana, senior service delivery analyst, are designed in part to cut down on paper waste – long a company goal.

“We stay on top of the technology,” Lana said. “And this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

With the Sun acquisition, Henkel became the second-largest player in the North American laundry segment, behind Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble. And while it’s not immediately looking to expand its Stamford presence, Kempf said the company never says never.

That’s not to say it isn’t considering expansion elsewhere. In July the corporation closed its $1.05 billion acquisition of Darex Packaging Technologies in Cambridge, Massachusetts, adding to its market-leading position as a solution provider for adhesives, sealants and functional coatings; in 2016, Henkel’s Adhesive Technologies business unit generated sales of around $10.5 billion.

At the same time, Henkel announced it had closed its acquisition of Cologne, Germany’s The Sonderhoff Group, which manufactures foamed-in-place gasketing solutions, for an undisclosed amount.

CEO Hans van Bylen said, “If there are opportunities for acquisitions, we will take a look at whether they are a good fit in terms of strategy and price. In the United States we are for instance not yet a leading seller of beauty care products.”

“Henkel will have a very successful 2017 in the United States,” van Bylen added. “That will also be reflected at the group level.”

Henkel is due to release its third-quarter financial results on Nov. 14.