Executives from Dow were joined by hundreds of employees and Gov. Tom Corbett to cut the ribbon Wednesday on the new facility in the Philadelphia suburb of Collegeville.
"We are setting down roots, we intend to grow, and this is the cornerstone of those roots," Dow Chemical chief executive officer Andrew Liveris said.
The company is moving about 15 miles from its current home in Spring House, where R&D labs for subsidiary Rohm and Haas Co. have been located since 1963, to about 800,000-square-feet of space it is leasing from drugmaker Pfizer Inc.
New York-based Pfizer inherited the huge property as part of its purchase of the former Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and mothballed the facility's research-and-development department - leading to lots of vacant space. Pfizer still has other operations at the site.
The acquisition of Rohm and Haas and the move to Collegeville represent "the rebooting of the human capital of that great company ... that was an opportunity that we could not pass up," Liveris said.
Dow Chemical signed a 50-year lease with Pfizer and aims to have all 800 employees moved by the end of 2014. The future is unclear for the Rohm and Haas campus in Spring House, which came under scrutiny more than a decade ago after researchers found higher rates of brain cancer in employees there compared to the general population - though no conclusive link was identified.
The property is for sale and Dow is working with township officials to find a suitable buyer for the site, said Howard Ungerleider, executive vice president of Dow's Advanced Materials division. He said the new Collegeville site, where 200 Rohm and Haas employees have already started working, will allow for greater collaboration because everyone is under one roof, unlike the 16 buildings that make up the 50-year-old Spring House campus.
Midland, Mich.-based Dow Chemical purchased Philadelphia-based Rohm & Haas in 2009 for more than $15 billion as part of an ongoing expansion strategy from its basic plastics industry into the more profitable specialty chemicals business. Specialty materials are used in products including personal care and home products, consumer electronics and pharmaceuticals.
The company does not plan to add any new Collegeville jobs in the short term but there is enough room to add around 500 workers in the future, officials said.