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Wacker Polymers: Lehigh Valley’s Das Wunderkind

By LVEDC Staff on October 23, 2012

The Germany-based chemical manufacturing company’s Lehigh Valley operations are on the move….literally.

Depending on your point of view, buildings are like people. Each possesses a personality and each has a story to tell in their design and construction.

Wacker Polymers new American headquarters, which opened in October 2009, is a reassertion of the company’s highest values. The 67,000 square-foot single-story facility at the intersection of Snowdrift and Tilghman streets in Upper Macungie Township is not only a visual marvel, it is as eminently diverse yet practical as the products Wacker produces. Designed to house research, development and applications testing laboratories, about two-thirds of the space is devoted primarily to product, application and market development, according to Wacker Polymers Vice President John Tacca.

“The remaining one-third of the space is assigned to sales and marketing along with business support functions,” Tacca said.

Wacker Polymers utilized the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation’s Business Retention and Expansion Program in addition to LVEDC’s regional development services during this project.

The company broke ground on the facility last November, but the Wacker story is almost 100 years in the making.

Making life better for you

At an age when most people are contemplating or are in retirement, Alexander Wacker began thinking about the future.

In 1914, at the age of 67, he founded what became Wacker Chemie AG when he bought a sliver of land between two rivers in a scenic section of Bavaria in the southeast section of Germany.

“There’s this one area in Germany which is really where the biggest plant is now, right on the Austrian border,” Tacca explained. “Wacker found that one river was at a different elevation versus the other river and he bought the land in between the two rivers and cut the channel from one to the other…It got Wacker into an energy-intensive business and he got free power by cutting the channel and creating his own hydroelectric power.”

Today the Wacker name is associated with diversity as a global leader in the chemical, solar wafer and semiconductor sectors. The company carves out this reputation through five divisions that produce distinctly unique products. It was a merging of five worlds that led Wacker to become a fusion of blank unity and create an almost Ahab-like obsession with excellence, which has propelled the company to greatness.

One of those five divisions is Wacker Polymers, which is recognized for producing high-quality binders and polymer additives. Their products include dispersions, polymer powders, polyvinyl acetates, surface coatings resins and polyvinyl alcoholic solutions. They are used in a wide variety of applications and as base chemicals.

Wacker Polymers is part of the Wacker’s U.S.-based legal entity, Wacker Chemical Corporation (WCC), Tacca noted.

“WCC has a total of seven locations through North America with a sales office in Mexico City,” he said.

For 10 years there was a joint-venture partnership between Wacker and Air Products and Chemicals, Tacca explained.

“In December 2007 Air Products sold their interest in our polymers joint venture to Wacker Chemie AG,” Tacca said. “The acquisition gave Wacker a broader global position, particularly in the U.S.”

The sale consisted of the global VAE polymers operations, which included the production facilities located in Calvert City, Ky., Cologne, Germany and Ulsan, Korea, along with the commercial and research operations that are now located in Upper Macungie Township and Burghausen, Germany.

The deal kept Wacker in the Lehigh Valley and spurred the construction of the new facility, which was fostered through the collaborative efforts between state and local government, business and industry. The new building will consolidate the company’s North American operations under one roof, allowing for the retention of 88 jobs and the creation of additional jobs based upon growth and market demand with several positions relocating to the site from WCC’s offices in Adrian, Michigan.

“It’s a state-of-the-art facility and we are excited about it,” Tacca said of the building.

And so are a lot of other folks in the Lehigh Valley.

 

2012 PEDA Fall Conference kicks off October 22nd

LVEDC is pleased to support the Pennsylvania Economic Development Association’s annual fall conference. From October 22nd through the 24th some of the Commonwealth’s top ec[...]

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