Entering the bright offices of Emerald Kalama Chemical, I pass through a small reception space into a common area with tall ceilings and an expanse of sky-high windows. I am greeted by Tracy Mackenzie who, along with many of her colleagues at Emerald Kalama Chemical, moved into their new office space at 1499 SE Tech Center Place, in Columbia Tech Center, this past December.
The sunlit common area is broad and spacious. The modern and sleek furnishings grouped throughout allow for small meetings over a cup of coffee and also accommodate a fuller office gathering. Moving into the office’s work space, Mackenzie points out the open concept design; a design Emerald Kalama Chemical sought to encourage collaboration and communication among employees. There are wall-less offices with desks which rise and lower at the push of a button. There are standing, collaborative tables for impromptu meetings and smaller side rooms for more private conferences. The space is filled with light from the wall of windows throughout.
“Our products are used in everyday things that you touch all the time.
We are really proud of a lot of the things we have done.”
After the tour, I sit down with Julie Vaughn Beige, Vice President of Business Development and Marketing Services, and Bill Castleberry, Global Sourcing Director, to learn more about Emerald Kalama Chemical, what brought them to Vancouver, and what they are planning for the future.
Having foundations in the chemicals industry for well over 100 years, Emerald Performance Materials began as a divestiture of a larger company in 2006. The company is comprised of four business groups and Emerald Kalama Chemicals, originally based at the plant in Kalama, Washington is, by far, the largest of the four divisions.
The plant in Kalama was originally built to produce chemicals for the Northwest’s timber industry. Now, it produces premier chemical additives found in shampoo, face cream, mouthwash, candies, carpets, tile, paint and more. Their products help preserve the freshness of foods and beverages and are essential to food safety and reducing food spoilage. Emerald also makes aroma additives used in cleaning products, air fresheners, laundry detergents, and perfumes, helping us all to work more closely with one another.
“Our products are used in everyday things that you touch all the time. We are really proud of a lot of the things we have done,” says Beige.
“Now, we are ready to enjoy the sunshine and the park.
I am looking forward to seeing all that this area has to offer.”
“As the dynamics of the chemical industry completely changed, this company has remade itself in a remarkable way,” says Beige. “Many other companies have faced disruptive changes in their market and they’ve closed down, but our company has been very resilient. We’ve focused on ways to change the type of product and the markets we serve in order to stay viable and fresh for our customers.”
Since 2006, Emerald Kalama Chemical has doubled in size with the help of five acquisitions and new product launches and developments including significant investments in their technology assets.
Until recently, the whole team was housed in the Kalama, Washington plant, which was originally built by Dow in 1962. But the recent and rapid growth had the leadership looking for a larger and more modern office space.
“We had leased trailers, which we were using for temporary offices, and were double, sometimes triple stacked in offices,” says Castleberry. “We looked at expanding in Kalama, but there just isn’t enough space. A lot of the people who worked at the facility in Kalama actually live in Vancouver, so we moved the corporate functions here to Vancouver.
One of our strengths is that we are a very collaborative company. When starting a project, we have to get all of the right people involved, so the build out of the space with the open-concept design really helps what we are trying to do,” explains Castleberry. “We like Columbia Tech Center because it is centrally located. It is close to the airport, close to where people live and there are many transportation routes to get here. It is an ideal location.”
“As we are growing, we are always looking for talent.
We value openness, honesty, and respectfulness
in all of our dealings with people.”
Now that they are a bit more settled, the folks at Emerald Kalama Chemical are looking forward to exploring more of the neighborhood.
“We got here in December. Then there were the holidays and then the dark days, you know, driving to work in the dark, driving home in the dark. Now, we are ready to enjoy the sunshine and the park,” says Castleberry. “I am looking forward to seeing all that this area has to offer. I think all of the events that Columbia Tech Center puts on, like the movies in the park and the summer concerts, seem to really bring people together. I think that is a positive draw here.”
Looking toward the future and continued growth, Emerald intends to enhance what they are currently doing as well as continue to expand their global footprint. And company expansion means hiring new professionals.
“As we are growing, we are always looking for talent. We are interested in people with business or accounting backgrounds, engineering or technical backgrounds. Really, we have roles for a lot of different skill sets in our company,” says Beige. “We value openness, honesty, and respectfulness in all of our dealings with people.”
Emerald is not only investing in expansion but also in environmental and safety improvements.
“We’ve made major improvements in emissions. In every capital project we invest in, we are investing more dollars to improve efficiency and make environmental improvements. Ed Gotch, CEO of Emerald Kalama Chemical and Vancouver resident, speaks about how we are all breathing the air here and need to share and enjoy the environment. Emerald strives to be a better corporate citizen,” says Beige. “We are a progressive company and we want to be good neighbors.”
So, the next time you are perusing the grocery store aisle and pick up that bottle of shampoo, you might think of your neighbors at Emerald Kalama Chemical as the reason you smell so fresh and so clean.