Belfast Telegraph

Du Pont is as durable as its famous products

By Margaret Canning

Wrangles over corporate governance are nothing new, and a fiery boardroom bust-up can change the path of a company for ever.

The latest big business to experience a difference of opinion — and to have its dirty linen aired publicly — is DuPont.

It’s an American multinational which was founded by a French family — and over half a century ago, was one of the first sizeable inward investors into Northern Ireland.

Now investor Trian wants to have the company split into two, one focusing on food and nutrition, and the other on industrial products. It’s hoped that such an outcome would not affect its historic Londonderry operation, as it is devoted to the production of industrial material Kevlar, used in body armour.

A piece by Clare Weir in the Business Telegraph nearly four years ago celebrated DuPont’s 50th birthday, with much nostalgia from company workers about the 50 years of production in Derry. It started out as a manufacturing centre for the synthetic rubber material Neoprene.

Neoprene was used for making conveyor belts, window seals, tyres, paints and high-insulation foams — and as former plant manager Professor Peter McKie reminisced, there were few chemical engineers here then, so they recruited young farmers and trained them.

Many of the staff in those early days were members of the US military who had been stationed in Derry and fell in love with the Derry air — and more importantly, Derry girls.

Now the Derry plant makes Kevlar — a material five times strong than steel which has been used to make body armour, including for Batman.

A family ethos was also brought home to us during our recent apprenticeship campaign. A proud Co Derry woman phoned us to tell us of her pride that her friend’s two sons were starting apprenticeships in DuPont and nearby spin-off Invista. Three generations of families have worked in Maydown.

In 2010, manager Tom Bolleart told us: “Factories have come and gone, some big names have disappeared, there have been some turbulent times, socially and financially, in Northern Ireland but DuPont is still standing strong and I am pleased to be a part of that.”

Belfast Telegraph

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