Manufacturing Today
- Page 20
Waterbury Has Chemistry
Brass City has the Right Formula for Chemical Firms
>>> by Michael C. Juliano

Waterbury is still referred to as the Brass City, a legacy associated with its heralded past as the brass capital of the world — maker of brass buttons, cartridges, wire and more. While the blue-collar town’s remaining manufacturers mostly produce precision parts for a variety of industries, Waterbury has become a nexus for the chemical industry. It is home to two major firms, with a third rising from the ground.

Fit for a King

King Industries, a Norwalk-based chemical manufacturer of specialty additives, is building a second manufacturing site on almost 12 acres it bought from the city on Chase River Road in the Waterbury Industrial Commons.

The company in the spring began erecting a 6,000-square-foot utility building for tradesmen and offices, to be followed over the years by an 11,000- square-foot warehouse and three 18,000-square-foot processing and tank farm buildings.

The firm’s Norwalk headquarters is comprised of nine buildings — including four for manufacturing — on 5 acres and has been on that site since its founding 85 years ago.

Old Hubbard

Hubbard-Hall, a Waterbury-based producer of metal surface-finishing chemicals, was originally founded in 1849 as Apothecaries Hall at 63 Bank Street. Since the 1950s, the company has been based on a 14-acre parcel on South Leonard Street that includes a 62,750-square-foot factory and 28,200-square-foot tank farm with 39 storage tanks. The firm also has a 35,000-square-foot blending facility in Inman, S.C., a 25,000-square-foot warehouse in Wilmington, Mass., and three other warehouse locations in Lima, Ohio; Syracuse, N.Y.; and Dallas.

MacDermid Exits, and Returns

MacDermid Performance Solutions, a specialty chemical company with six subsidiaries and more than 130 locations worldwide, began as MacDermid Inc. in 1922.

It was based on Freight Street until the headquarters was moved to Denver in 2002 and manufacturing relocated from Huntingdon Avenue to Michigan. In 2013, West Palm Beach, Fla.-based Platform Specialty Products acquired MacDermid for $1.8 billion and moved the company headquarters, which has about 60 workers, back to Freight Street.

MacDermid’s Enthone Electronic Solutions and its technical and research center are based in a building next door, which has always housed MacDermid employees, and have about 200 workers total in both structures.

These three companies lie within five miles of each other along Route 8, with King Industries’ property to the north in the industrial park, MacDermid about three miles to the south, and Hubbard-Hall almost 2 miles farther down the highway.

Attractive Properties

The presence of MacDermid and Hubbard-Hall in Waterbury likely helped attract King Industries here, but the Brass City also played a prominent role all its own, said Joseph McGrath, the city’s economic development director.

“I know King Industries loved Waterbury’s diversity and being surrounded by suburbs that are affordable,” McGrath said. “Their location was perfect.”

Residents can rest assured that these companies pose no threat to the welfare of the environment or the city’s drinking water, he added.

“They are totally different kinds of companies, and their preventative security is above what is required to minimize the risk to any city, not just ours,” McGrath said. “They’re good corporate citizens.”

Why Waterbury?

Company executives were asked why Waterbury, a city known for making metal parts, has been home for these chemical firms for decades, or, in the case of King Industries, will soon be a satellite location.

Robert A. King, Director of Operations, King Industries

The company chose Waterbury for its second facility because of the city’s collective know-how for and strong commitment to manufacturing, King said.

King Industries worked with the state Department of Economic and Community Development a decade ago to find a site to expand its operations, he said.

“Overall, Waterbury is a good fit because it has a history of manufacturing and industrial mentality, and it knows that it’s part of the city’s future,” he said.

He added that the entire cost for the new site will be up to $50 million when fully developed. “Many of the historical areas in Connecticut have changed their vision of who they are to the point of developing exclusionary zoning restrictions for manufacturing,” King said.

The company, which has sales and technical locations in Holland, China and Germany, also preferred Waterbury over other locations because its high schools and Naugatuck Valley Community College offer engineering and science courses crucial to manufacturing, he said.

“Its workforce is adaptable to many types of skills, crafts and operations,” he said, adding King Industries plans to hire 50 workers for the Waterbury site. “The city is built on local manufacturing.”

The company’s future presence as a chemical manufacturer in the city should not concern residents because the firm’s new plant will have “inherently safe designed” manufacturing equipment, said King, co-founder Gardner King’s grandson. It also has redundant systems to ensure chemicals do not escape the plant, and stringent International Standards Organizations management programs for its quality, environmental and safety measures, he said.

“King Industries adheres to or exceeds all environmental regulations,” said King, whose firm makes additives for a wide variety of industries. “We have a cooperative relationship with the state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, as well as the (federal) Environmental Protection Agency.”

His company supports many Norwalk organizations, including River/Harbor Watch, Norwalk Seaport Association and local sports teams and events, he said. It also participates in Ecovadis sustainability ratings for corporate social responsibility initiatives, having won a silver medal for its efforts, he said.

“King Industries looks forward to continuing a positive relationship with the City of Waterbury,” he said.

King Industries

Founded: 1932 by Robert J. King and son Gardner King
Headquarters: 1 Science Road, Norwalk; Waterbury location in the Waterbury Industrial Commons on Chase River Road
Employees: About 200