Dow Agro adding R&D building, researchers-WEB ONLY

Dow AgroSciences has signed a 15-year lease that will spur construction of an 80,000-square-foot research-and-development building, to be erected adjacent to its headquarters in northwest Indianapolis. As a result, the company plans to hire dozens of additional researchers.

Dow AgroSciences’ new two-story building will be developed and owned by Indianapolis-based Browning Investments Inc., which also will be general contractor on the project. It will be in Browning’s Northwest Technology Campus.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered Dow AgroSciences up to $2.4 million in performance-based tax credits and $120,000 in training grants based on the company’s hiring plans.

The local office of Los Angeles-based CB Richard Ellis served as leasing agent. The building was designed by Indianapolis-based BSA Lifestructures and will house laboratories for about 100 researchers-a combination of existing employees and new hires.

Groundbreaking will occur next month. Dow AgroSciences anticipates occupying the building by mid-2010.

The deal strengthens Dow AgroSciences’ local roots. Its parent, Midland, Mich.-based Dow Chemical Co., this year has been evaluating whether to divest the agricultural chemicals and biotech business. Dow Chemical is expected to announce its intentions for the business this summer.

Dow AgroSciences CEO Jerome Peribere declined to comment directly about whether a sale is off the table, saying it’s not his decision. But he went on to note that Dow Chemical’s financial position has improved since the first quarter, when the company was “fairly stressed.”

“Dow AgroSciences is clearly a strategic asset for the Dow Chemical Co. And the divesture of Dow AgroSciences would be, as [Dow Chemical CEO] Andrew Liveris has said several times, counter-strategic,” Peribere said.

“Therefore, the fact that Dow Chemical has restructured its balance sheet and is continuing to proceed with nonstrategic divestures, I would only comment this is all very good news for Dow AgroSciences.”

“We love being here,” Peribere added.

Peribere noted that Dow AgroSciences has been regularly expanding. Its headcount was less than 1,000 three years ago, he said, and now stands over 1,200.

“Some of those people we are packing in our existing facilities will be moving to our [new] offices and labs,” Peribere said.

This afternoon, Browning Director of Development John Hirschman said Dow AgroSciences contacted his company several months ago to initiate the project. Browning already owned the land, which ironically once belonged to Dow.

Hirschman said the new R&D building will feature a number of special features to support Dow AgroSciences’ lab activities, including upgraded structural steel so it can accommodate heavier equipment loads than a traditional office building; a high-end HVAC system so the company can enjoy precise humidity and temperature control during experiments; and special glass so its windows won’t fog up during tests.

“It’s a great project for Dow and a great project for Browning,” Hirschman said.

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