When Sealed Air Corp. decided to relocate its corporate headquarters to Charlotte, the company chose LakePointe Corporate Center, developed by Childress Klein off Billy Graham Parkway near Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
Two years ago, Sealed Air Corp. (NYSE: SEE) executives estimated they would bring 1,262 employees to a proposed new corporate campus near Billy Graham Parkway in Charlotte.
Now, two months before the company starts a phased move-in at its $58 million, 380,000-square-foot campus, CEO Jerome Peribere says the number will be closer to 1,400.
The increase is fueled by the unexpectedly high relocation acceptance rate of existing Sealed Air employees, the company says.
The company is consolidating its small Elmwood Park, N.J., headquarters along with other offices in Wisconsin, South Carolina, Europe and Latin America.
Sealed Air executives had been told to expect that about half its employees would agree to the move. The number turned out to be 90%.
“We have been surprised,” Peribere says.
Norm Finch coordinated the workforce aspects of the move. He believes tours of Charlotte the company conducted in the lead up to the move helped win employees over.
“Those familiarization trips and breaking things up into waves were two of the main reasons we got such high acceptance rates,” says Finch, Sealed Air vice president, general counsel and secretary.
Another factor in the employment increase here: Sealed Air has been aggressively hiring locally and from around the country.
It’s to the point that temporary offices off Arrowood Road are packed with about 500 people. Some of the relocating Sealed Air employees will now move directly to the new campus instead of being housed at the temporary site.
After 14 months of construction, the campus’s three buildings, two parking decks and outdoor pavilion in LakePoint Corporate Center are approaching completion. The exteriors are complete and last week workers were laboring inside, finishing drywall jobs, fitting flooring and installing workstations.
The move that starts in October is expected to take about six months to complete.
Sealed Air announced in July 2014 it would move its global headquarters to Charlotte. Peribere moved into an uptown apartment as Shelco started construction on the headquarters last year.
“It’s a great place,” he says when asked how he’s enjoying his new home city. “It’s sufficiently big for people to have an enjoyable life and sufficiently small to have life easy.”
On the Sealed Air campus, the company is building an engagement center where customers and employees will work to solve packaging and cleaning problems. “The best way to do this is to bring them into our headquarters and show them how we see the world can be years from now,” Peribere says.
With total annual revenue of $7 billion, Sealed Air is made up of two divisions that are world market leaders — food care and product care.
A third division — its hygiene segment — holds the No. 2 spot in its industry. The key for growth at Sealed Air, Peribere says, is to create a place in the new customer engagement center for collaboration.
The center, which is housed in Building A along with top managers from all three divisions, will be one of the first two buildings completed on campus.
The food care division, for example, will use the center to work with customers to extend product shelf life — in particular proteins such as meat. Sealed Air’s Cryovac systems of vacuum sealing and shrink-wrapping foods is included in this division.
“We want to be able to attract our customers and do co-creation and have an environment where they’re going to see how they can re-imagine their industry thanks to our solutions,” Peribere says.
During a recent Huffington Post interview, Karl Deily, global president of the food-service division, talked about how Sealed Air has helped Panera Bread with food contamination and waste reduction.
Deily says Sealed Air suggested Panera soups be prepared at a central location and packaged in individual quantities that could be reheated at each location. That was a change from the practice of making the soups in a large vat for shipment.
The change helps maintain the quality of the soups and cuts down on possible contamination.
Deily also says it discouraged restaurant employees from carrying over large containers of soup from day to day and beyond their shelf life.
In the product-care division, the idea is to design packaging that will protect products during shipping.
“We are eliminating damage,” he says. With new rules that discourage oversized packages and excess packaging, Sealed Air works to customize containers to their function. “We are enabling our customers to save a lot of money by reducing their freight bill,” Peribere says.
Those products include its legendary Bubble Wrap along with foams and other wraps designed to protect products from the factory or from fulfillment centers around the world.
HB2 happened too late to change Sealed Air’s mind about North Carolina
House Bill 2 happened almost two years after Sealed Air announced it would bring its world headquarters to Charlotte.
By April 23, when N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill into law, the $58 million corporate campus had been under construction for eight months.
Did CEO Jerome Peribere have second thoughts about bringing hundreds of corporate employees into North Carolina after the General Assembly refused to grant a protected class status to its LGBT community?
“It was too late,” Peribere says. “We were committed. There was no possibility to change.”
Until now, Peribere and Sealed Air have been largely silent about HB2. In an April statement, Sealed Air said the company “takes real responsibility to ensure that gender diversity is actively championed and is opposed to all types of discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.”
During an interview last week, Peribere still didn’t talk directly about HB2. “We don’t believe that a company of our size should make public statements” about the work of the General Assembly, he says.
Peribere did say Sealed Air works hard to ensure that it has a diverse workforce.
“We believe that everybody needs to be feeling welcome and not discriminated (against) in any way,” he says. “We have lots of respect for our LBGT (community) and we want them to feel absolutely welcome and work in a progressive environment.”