Real Estate - Commercial

Manufacturer Leases 101K Square Feet In New Wilmington Facility

By Cece Nunn, posted Dec 20, 2021
Sustainable packaging manufacturer PaperFoam is the first business to sign a lease at the Wilmington Trade Center, where the first of three buildings is nearly complete. (Photo by Cece Nunn)
A sustainable packaging company has leased more than 101,000 square feet in a new Wilmington industrial facility.

PaperFoam, headquartered in the Netherlands, is moving its Leland operations, plus introducing new manufacturing equipment, to the Wilmington Trade Center on U.S. 421, the company's COO said Monday.

“We have taken the space because we are experiencing growth in our business and we are planning for even more rapid growth,” Malcolm Ford said. “America is just becoming switched on to an eco-friendly type of environment a little later than Europe, so we are trying to actively be part of that with not only existing customers but new customers.”

PaperFoam makes its packaging products using industrial potato starch, cellulose fibers, water and a proprietary ingredient, said CEO Willem Derkman.

The mixture creates a dough the thickness of toothpaste, which is then injection-molded with PaperFoam’s patented technology and machines, Derkman said, resulting in less energy loss.

“The final product is compostable … so you can throw it in your garden; then it will biodegrade in approximately eight to 10 weeks or it is even paper recyclable,” he said. “So the cellulose fibers in the products that we produce can be recycled in the paper waste stream.”

PaperFoam’s local manufacturing operation serves customers in North America that include Durham-based Burt’s Bees, Derkman said. In addition to cosmetics, it also produces packaging for medical devices and consumer electronics at its local plant. 

The company was founded in 1998 in the north of Holland as a research project by a starch company, Derkman said.

In Leland, PaperFoam has about 50 employees, including temporary workers, but that number could increase to more than 100 in the future as a result of the expansion, Ford said.

Derkman said demand is expected to rise for PaperFoam's packaging, as bans on single-use plastic increase globally. "We don't use any plastics in our recipe, so this helps potential customers to get rid of their single-use plastics packages," Derkman said.

To more than double its space, PaperFoam signed a lease for 101,438 square feet in the 157,600-square-foot building nearing completion at the Wilmington Trade Center. The project is under development by Edgewater Ventures and McKinley Building Corp.

Chris Norvell, industrial partner with Edgewater, said in a news release that his partnership already has site plan approval to construct the center’s second building, which will be identical in size and design to the first. 

The Wilmington Trade Center industrial park will eventually include three buildings and a total of 425,000 square feet of Class A industrial space. 

“We’re excited to welcome our first tenant to Wilmington Trade Center, and also to simultaneously expand the footprint and manufacturing capabilities of this tenant,” Norvell said in the release, which did not name PaperFoam.

The trade center is Edgewater Ventures’ first ground-up development in the Wilmington market and the first building adds to the company’s industrial portfolio in the area, which totals 1.3 million square feet, according to the release.  

The Wilmington Trade Center is on U.S. 421 near the interchange at Interstate 140, about 4 miles from downtown. 

In addition to being a partner in the development, McKinley Building Corp. is also the contractor. PaperFoam was represented in lease negotiations by Coldwell Banker Commercial Sun Coast Partners' brokers Cody Cress and Tyler Pegg.

According to the release, the first building “features tilt-up concrete construction with extensive glass lines, 32-foot clear height, an ESFR sprinkler system and a 180-foot deep truck court.”
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