Sealed Air Corp. chooses Charlotte for new headquarters

07/24/2014 12:00 AM

07/23/2014 7:37 PM

Sealed Air Corp. considered putting a new headquarters in Greenville, and spending $58 million on a new office building along Interstate 85, before announcing Wednesday that it had picked Charlotte, Greenville County officials said.

Sealed Air was the company county officials referred to as Project Infinium and had been courting for a $58 million capital project and 490 new jobs, said Bob Taylor, County Council chairman, and Kevin Landmesser, interim president of Greenville Area Development Corp., the county’s economic development organization.

County officials had given preliminary approval to a property tax break only to learn that Sealed Air decided to put the headquarters in Charlotte, taking with it 750 jobs in Greenville and Duncan.

Landmesser said he was told that air service and workforce were two factors that prompted the company to pick Charlotte.

International flights available in Charlotte and not Greenville were attractive to a global company with much of its business overseas, Landmesser said.

Sealed Air considered several sites along I-85 in Greenville County for the new headquarters, but not downtown, he said.

“We were told they preferred the visibility of the interstate,” Landmesser said.

As for workforce, he said Sealed Air found “a lot more depth in financial and IT talent in the Charlotte region.”

Taylor said he knew the prospect only under the code name Project Infinium until Wednesday.

Sealed Air jobs will be relocated from Greenville, where 150 customer service employees work, and Duncan, where a majority of 850 employees support the company’s food-care business, said company spokesman Ken Aurichio.

Aurichio said the company will keep about 250 jobs in Duncan, including employees working on equipment and in the medical division. The company’s Simpsonville and Seneca sites, with about 1,100 and 100 jobs respectively, will continue manufacturing operations, Aurichio said.

Aurichio confirmed the company considered Greenville among several sites before deciding to establish a new global headquarters in Charlotte.

Allison Skipper, spokeswoman for the South Carolina Commerce Department, declined to comment.

“There’s a lot of cachet that comes along with landing a corporate headquarters because you tend to get the higher-paid executives,” said Mark Vitner, managing director and senior economist in Charlotte for Wells Fargo’s economics group. “It is certainly a coup for Charlotte, and disappointing to folks who didn’t get it.”

One of the most important factors in a corporate headquarters decision is good airline service, including frequency to business centers such as New York and nonstop international flights for companies with global operations, Vitner said.

While air service is important and Greenville might lack amenities of larger cities, it can counter with a growing economy and vibrant downtown, Vitner said.

It’s not easy to soften the blow of losing a corporate headquarters, “but I feel pretty confident Greenville’s going to come out on the plus side in plenty of other relocations,” he said. “It may not be the absolute corporate headquarters.”

“We’re certainly disappointed that Sealed Air has made the decision to locate their global headquarters in Charlotte,” said Rosylin Weston, spokeswoman for Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport. “While we understand that direct international service was high on their list of requirements, we could not meet those requirements.”

Still, GSP has one-stop international flights for global companies in the Upstate, she said.

Greenville site consultant Mark Sweeney, who has helped numerous companies find new locations for headquarters, including Nissan and Hertz, said he wasn’t surprised to hear that air service was an issue in Sealed Air’s choice of Charlotte over Greenville.

Sweeney said he’s had numerous clients that moved headquarters from smaller cities to bigger cities, and air service was usually one of the big reasons.

“It’s hard for them to manage their headquarters operation efficiently without a hub airport, ideally with international service,” he said.

Sweeney said his clients have also found bigger cities a better place to recruit and retain skilled employees and find key vendors such as law and accounting firms.

Greenville County has made headquarters a target of its job-recruiting efforts, and Sweeney said it’s a good idea as long as county officials understand the challenge.

“If Greenville was putting all their eggs in the headquarters basket, that’s probably not a good idea,” he said. “But I like it as a stretch target.”

Sealed Air will relocate to a modern, state-of-the art, environmentally sustainable campus that will become the headquarters for its divisions, research and development facilities, and corporate offices, company officials said.

Sealed Air said that within the next three years, it anticipates approximately 1,300 jobs will be relocated to Charlotte from its current headquarters in Elmwood Park, New Jersey; and all or part of its facilities in Saddle Brook, New Jersey; Danbury, Connecticut; Racine, Wisconsin; and Duncan and Greenville. The company also plans to relocate a small number of employees from other locations.

“We are confident Charlotte will provide a great environment for us to operate and grow our business moving forward. This move will contribute to a stronger, one-company culture that will enable greater collaboration, efficiencies, and better use of our investments in people and new technologies,” Jerome Peribere, Sealed Air’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

“We considered numerous criteria in making our decision,” Peribere said. “We believe Charlotte’s many attributes, including its solid economy and its reputation for business friendliness, technology and innovation, make it an ideal place for our employees to live and work.”

The company’s portfolio of brands includes Cryovac food-packaging solutions, Bubble Wrap cushioning and Diversey cleaning and hygiene products.

Sealed Air has approximately 25,000 employees and customers in 175 countries.

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