Southern Delaware
Jobs creation celebrated with Seaford packaging production plant
Kolby Craft, left, and Terrance Showell work the Dry Line at ILC-Dover Grayling Industries at the new plant in Seaford on Tuesday. (Special to the Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

SEAFORD — Joined by more than 100 people clad in baby blue long-sleeve smocks and hair nets, state and Sussex County officials Tuesday celebrated job creation in Seaford, where Grayling, an ILC Dover Company, has revitalized a plant on Del. 20 to relocate production for industrial packaging and safety products from Mexico.

Among its products, the company makes bulk containers for powders such as baby formula, milk, cosmetics as well as pop-up showers — officially disposable decontamination showers — used for asbestos-removal projects.

Fifty people already work at the site and Grayling has plans to ultimately employ 180 to work on nine production lines — two are already in place at the 90,000-square-foot plant on Whitehurst Drive.

Officials handed out thank yous and praise for the cooperation among various levels of government that facilitated the move.

The state provided a $346,500 Strategic Fund Performance Grant to Grayling to bring 115 jobs to Seaford, as well as a Strategic Fund Capital Expenditures Grant for $187,860, or a 3 percent match on capital expenditure up to $6.26 million. Sussex County gave the company a $92,000 economic development grant tied to job creation.

Grayling Industries President Bill Wallach, chief executive officer of The New ILC Dover, said the company hadn’t considered Seaford for its new home until Delaware’s Economic Development Office Director Alan Levin suggested the city.

“To be honest, (we) had not thought about Seaford up until that point. He really opened our eyes,” Mr. Wallach said. “It became obvious to us that this was the right decision for us” with Seaford offering a quality workforce and commitment and dedication from local government.

The progression from purchasing Grayling in December to beginning site work in March and shipping product in August was completed in record time, he said. “I don’t think that could occur anywhere other than the state of Delaware.”

Gov. Jack Markell lauded Graylin’s choice of southern Delaware for its relocation.

“We know how important jobs are in this part of Delaware. And we know what a devastating hole was created after DuPont left years ago,” he said. “(Grayling) had all kinds of choices. They could have kept the jobs in Mexico, but they didn’t. This is a global firm, they could have gone anywhere and they chose Seaford.”

Longtime Kent County manufacturer ILC Dover, maker of many unique products from personal protection gear to inflatable airships and spacesuits for NASA, purchased Grayling in December 2012 and looked for a place to relocate the Juarez, Mexico company. Established in Alpharetta, Ga., in 1986, Grayling Industries moved operations to Mexico in 1990.

Grayling Program Manager Tony Asti said ILC Dover pursued Grayling as a way to balance the Frederica-based company’s commercial and government business. Items produced in Seaford will involve industrial packaging, for bulk food packaging, shipping and storage, and for safety products focused on asbestos abatement removal such as the disposable showers.

“It’s a very good expansion to our existing product line,” he said.

Mr. Asti said the company invested $1.5 million to $1.6 million on renovations to get the facility ready. That work was handled by Development Corporation of America, or DCA.

“This was just an empty, dirty, dark warehouse,” he said.

After site renovation and moving 85 pieces of manufacturing equipment from Mexico to Sussex County, work officially began July 5, Mr. Asti said. Work takes place on two shifts.

Seaford Acting Mayor David Genshaw said Grayling is part of the positive momentum he hopes Seaford can build on. Noting the Seaford High School renovation taking place and expansion of sewer and water on the north side of U.S. 13 that could attract growth, he said Grayling is “one of the many irons in the fire spurring Seaford on.”

Gov. Markell said the significance in the Grayling opening was evident in the at least eight General Assembly members gathered for the ribbon cutting and tour Tuesday afternoon. He was among those in attendance who joked about the blue smocks and hair nets required by plant management to maintain a clean facility.

“Not only do I want to introduce (the legislators), I really want to get some pictures of them ... because these pictures could go a long way.”

Mr. Levin asked jokingly to take his smock and hair net home. Two elected officials from Sussex County told him the outfit was an improvement.

“God knows I need all the help I can get,” he said.