Bercen seeks strategic location for expansion
Founded in 1958, Bercen Inc. is a manufacturer of high-quality specialty chemicals for the paper industry. Originally headquartered in Cranston, Rhode Island, Bercen develops, manufactures and sells specialty chemicals for the paper and paperboard industries and specializes in additives for coated paper and board manufacturers.
The company saw its sales rise in the mid-2000s, nearly tripling over the course of a few years. With this increase in sales, Bercen leaders needed the ability to expand the company’s operations and workforce. Rhode Island, however, did not provide an effective business climate for the company’s expansion. The high cost of doing business presented several challenges, and high living expenses prevented the company from attracting a workforce of talented chemists.
After operating in Rhode Island for more than 50 years, relocating the Bercen headquarters became an imminent prospect. Bercen sought a headquarters site with an ideal combination of a business-friendly environment, a skilled workforce and the infrastructure to export its products.
Bercen finds ideal mix of workforce, business climate in Louisiana
In addition to its headquarters in Rhode Island, Bercen had locations across the nation, including a manufacturing site in Denham Springs. This Louisiana-based manufacturing facility was in operation since 1978 and provided a potential location for the headquarters facility. In mid-2007, officials from LED met with Bercen leaders to identify solutions for the chemical producer. With the right combination of a skilled workforce, a positive business environment and a strong infrastructure, LED officials were certain they could make the case for Bercen’s headquarters relocation to the Denham Springs site.
LED highlighted their local talent — noting that in-state universities produce many qualified graduates in the area and could provide Bercen with a pool of research chemists and engineers.
The state’s infrastructure was also a competitive advantage and proved well-equipped to support the company’s transportation and distribution needs. Louisiana offers close proximity to raw materials and access to the firm’s customer base, with many paper-manufacturing facilities in the region. Another valuable resource was the Port of New Orleans. With 40 percent of Bercen’s business consisting of exports, the established port infrastructure played a vital role in the company’s success.
LED offered Bercen an incentive package of $450,000 for infrastructure and relocation expenses, as well as the state’s Quality Jobs program, which provides a 5 percent to 6 percent cash rebate on annual gross payroll for new direct jobs over 10 years.
Headquarters relocation improves cost efficiency
Bercen officials made the decision to relocate the company headquarters, as well as the research and development and technical services laboratories, to Denham Springs. The company also made plans to expand its local manufacturing operations.
In June 2008, state and local leaders joined Jim Thorpe, Bercen’s president and CEO (1999-2012), as he announced the company’s plans for relocation. The project represented a $5 million capital investment, and company officials committed to creating 18 new jobs at the facility and retain 30 manufacturing jobs already in place.
“The decision to move our sole base of manufacturing operations from Cranston to Denham Springs was based on what we found to be a more competitive business climate in Louisiana. We are enthusiastic about the direction in which Louisiana is heading, and we want to be a part of it.”
The relocation to Denham Springs included the addition of 13,000 square feet of office and laboratory space. The laboratories include areas for analytical testing, production development, wet-end paper making, paper coating and paper property testing.
The site expansion also included improvements to a rail spur located on site to tap into the state’s infrastructural resources and serve nearby paper mills.
The company celebrated the grand opening of the new headquarters facility in October 2009. Consolidating in Denham Springs positioned Bercen to capitalize on its growth in a state with a strong business climate. The move to Louisiana presented Bercen with the opportunity to save between $700,000 and $800,000 annually and increased the company’s capacity for cost-efficient operations.
The available talent pool in Louisiana solved Bercen’s workforce needs, not only in the manufacturing division, but in the management division as well. The new facility brings together all members of senior management, and the close proximity of all departments allows for quick and efficient decision-making and implementation.
By January 2012, the company successfully filled all positions and exceeded its initial jobs commitment, hiring 20 new employees for a total of 50 workers in their Denham Springs location.
“Our experience in Louisiana thus far has been a positive one. In addition to offering a business-friendly climate, Louisiana affords us an opportunity to be close to our suppliers and recruit excellent talent from LSU and Southeastern Louisiana University. We look forward to a long-lasting presence in Livingston Parish and Louisiana.”