Dow Chemical officials stress commitment to Midland

Michael Martinez and Chad Livengood
The Detroit News

Dow Chemical Co. officials on Wednesday re-affirmed the company’s commitment to Midland amidst a report that other states are trying to lure it from the city it’s called home for more than a century.

Bridge Magazine and Crain’s Detroit Business on Wednesday reported numerous states are aggressively courting Dow. The report said Dow management has quietly acknowledged to Michigan business leaders it’s getting significant incentive offers, according to business leaders who spoke to Bridge Magazine on condition of anonymity.

Dow spokeswoman Rachelle Schikorra, in an email to The Detroit News, didn’t confirm the report, but said it was “common practice” for other states to reach out to companies to discuss future growth objectives and explore investment opportunities. She said Dow was committed to Midland, the city in which it was founded in 1897.

“Dow has repeatedly expressed its commitment to the community of Midland and the Great Lakes Bay Region, as evidenced by the new materials science headquarters remaining in Midland, and the construction of a new corporate center at our HQ location,” she said.

“As it relates to future growth and investment, we believe it is critical that Michigan remain competitive when viewed against other states that work hard to attract and retain world-class companies and high-paying jobs to their states. We will continue to work with the State of Michigan and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) regarding Michigan’s competitiveness.”

Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan and chairman of the MEDC Executive Committee, said the absence of large-scale taxpayer incentives to compete with other states trying to lure Michigan companies away puts the state at risk of losing future job growth opportunities: “I’m concerned about not just Dow. I’m concerned about our ability to grow as a state.”

The chemical manufacturer is in the midst of a merger with Wilmington, Delaware-based DuPont Co. that is expected to close in the second half of 2016. The merged company, DowDuPont, would then be split into three independent, publicly traded companies that focus on separate areas: commodity chemicals including plastics (based in Midland); agricultural products including herbicides and genetically modified seeds (based in Delaware); and specialty chemicals such as those used in solar panels (based in Delaware).

Midland’s headquarters will focus on materials science in a new 150,000-square-foot building that will employ 600.

Dow and DuPont expect their merger will cut annual expenses by $3 billion.

Rich Studley, president and CEO of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, said he had dinner a week ago with a senior Dow executive and received no signs of trouble.

“My impression is that even through the recent corporate changes and into the future, Dow is very focused on not only remaining competitive nationally and internationally but the company remains strongly committed to Midland and the state of Michigan,” Studley said.

Dow employs more than 5,000 in Midland, including about 1,600 at its headquarters. An additional 1,400 people work in the city for Dow Corning Corp., a split joint-venture that Dow is gaining control of.

It remains to be seen what the merger will mean for local employment. DuPont early this year cut 1,700 jobs in Delaware and thousands more globally in preparation for the merger. It has about 54,000 employees worldwide, and the restructuring program will ultimately cut about 10 percent of that workforce.