Dietz & Watson, 10 months after a fire destroyed its national distribution center in New Jersey, has decided to build and expand at its location at 5701 Tacony St.
The announcement was made last week by Gov. Tom Corbett.
Corbett thanked Mayor Michael Nutter, City Councilman Bobby Henon and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation for finalizing the deal.
The governor described Dietz & Watson — a fourth-generation, family-owned food manufacturer — as a brand that is synonymous with Philadelphia, adding that he hopes the company remains “a staple of this community for years to come.”
“My administration is working every day to partner with businesses to secure job-creating projects that result in new investment in our communities and new jobs for our residents,” Corbett said. “We’re proud to partner with family-owned companies such as Dietz & Watson that are growing and thriving in Pennsylvania.”
Dietz & Watson produces meats and cheeses that are sold in delis and supermarkets throughout the United States and the world. The company will create 158 jobs in Philadelphia and retain its current 691 city-based employees.
The 158 jobs consist of 48 new manufacturing, sales and administrative positions and 110 moving from the company’s former site in Delanco, Burlington County. That site caught on fire last September.
Gottlieb Dietz founded the company in 1939. Its first location was on Delaware Avenue, near Vine Street. He died in 1964, leaving the business to his daughter, Ruth “Momma Dietz” Eni. The company moved to its Tacony Street location in 1975.
“We are very excited that Dietz & Watson has chosen to expand and reinvest in Philadelphia,” Nutter said. “Thank you to all of the partners involved and to the entire Dietz & Watson family who were a pleasure to work with throughout this process.”
Dietz & Watson will invest more than $50 million at its campus. It will construct a 200,000-square-foot distribution center and a fleet-maintenance facility, and will enhance its corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility.
A new conveyor system will transfer food from its kitchens directly to new storage facilities, eliminating more than 200 weekly truck trips over the Delaware River.
The expansion will add about 20 acres to the existing 22-acre campus. That’s all part of a 73-acre land assemblage from properties owned by the state and the city, along with the privately held Frankford Arsenal Business Center.
Twenty-three acres will support the state’s boat launch, expanded public riverfront trails and open space. The remaining 30 acres will be available for future commercial and industrial development.
“Our effort to capitalize on the nationwide manufacturing renaissance starts with the long-abandoned industrial parcels in our own backyard,” Henon said. “By attracting the right businesses for these spaces, we can make Philadelphia a manufacturing center once again.”
Louis Eni, president and CEO of Dietz & Watson and grandson of Gottlieb Dietz, said his company will forever be grateful to the people of Delanco for welcoming the business. He thanked them for their patience and support during the cleanup after the fire.
Eni said the new campus will be the realization of a dream, adding that the company is “proud to call Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley our home.”
“This is a tremendous opportunity for our family-owned company to grow in the city and state that has supported us for 75 years,” he said. “We had our eye on this property nearly 10 years ago, when we first began plans to build a large distribution center, but it wasn’t available at the time. Our family thought long and hard about the decision to leave New Jersey. But in the end, we believe it’s the right decision for our employees, our customers and for the future of our company.”
Dietz & Watson received funding from the state Department of Community and Economic Development that included a $2 million grant, with another $125,000 to be used for skills training for current and new employees.
The company is also eligible to apply for a $5 million loan from the Machinery and Equipment Loan Fund, a $2.25 million loan from the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority and $5 million in Redevelopment Capital Assistance Program funds.
John Grady, president of PIDC, said the expansion, job creation, extended waterfront recreation and potential for additional manufacturing mark a win for the city, state and business and residential communities.
“We are thrilled to be able to help Dietz & Watson, a venerable hometown family business, continue to grow here in Philadelphia,” he said. ••