After months of denials, Sherwin-Williams (SHW) finally has acknowledged publicly and officially that it is seeking a new home for its global headquarters and research-development facilities.
In a press release shared today, SHW Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John G. Morikis admitted what has been reported here at NEOtrans for nearly a year — that the global coatings giant has outgrown its scattered offices throughout Greater Cleveland and is looking for a new HQ+R&D.
The company’s significant growth and global expansion over the last several decades has resulted in a less than optimal configuration of headquarters, offices and R&D facilities across multiple locations, Morikis said.
This action comes as a result of the company’s ongoing review of its facilities requirements as it seeks to best meet the current and future needs of its customers and employees, the company said.
After multiple articles written here at NEOtrans, Morikis and SHW’s public relations staff issued at least two intra-office e-mails (including one just last week) urging staff not to publicly discuss the company’s HQ+R&D facilities search.
As part of the exploratory process, SHW said officially that will consider multiple potential sites, including locations in Cleveland, Northeast Ohio and several other states. Any transition to new facilities is not expected to occur until 2023 at the earliest and would require approval by SHW’s board of directors, the company said.
The reference to “other states” is likely to appease former Valspar workers now working for SHW in Minneapolis and other locales, according to several sources. The Cleveland suburb of Brecksville also has been mentioned, as the DiGeronimo family — developers of the former Veterans Administration hospital — have pitched their site for SHW’s R&D facility and possibly the HQ as well.
Also, other sources reminded that SHW sent request for qualifications to the Cleveland offices of Turner Construction Co. and Gilbane Building Co. for the construction of 1.8 million square feet of HQ+R&D facilities. And, Cleveland-based architectural firm Vocon was retained to develop site alternatives for the new HQ+R&D facilities. SHW’s attention to the Cleveland offices of those firms may be noteworthy.
Councilman Kerry McCormack, whose Ward 3 includes downtown Cleveland, didn’t sound terribly worried about SHW leaving.
“We’re in good communication with Sherwin-Williams,” he said. “We’ll do whatever it takes to keep them. But companies that want to attract talent are looking at moving into cities, not leave them. We are going to work closely with Sherwin-Williams to make sure they have a great new home in Downtown Cleveland.”
SHW’s consideration of other cities/states for its HQ+R&D spaces may have more in common with Swagelok’s recent facility search. In 2018, Solon-based Swagelok Co. issued an RFP for a new corporate headquarters and innovation center.
While company officials claimed that they would consider building a new home anywhere, few expected Swagelok to leave the city where it was founded in 1965. Sure enough, Swagelok decided to stay put and build a new Solon facility for 400 employees now, and possibly growing to 1,000 in the near future.
SHW’s roots go 100 years deeper into Cleveland’s soil. To pull them out would be a tremendous blow to the city and possibly to SHW as well. And it wouldn’t merely be a public relations stain on SHW. All of SHW’s headquarters employees and most of its research workers are located here.
A high-level source last week informed NEOtrans that SHW reportedly favors building its HQ+R&D on the west side of Public Square, the same location where SHW had proceeded to advance detailed civil engineering for a new HQ in 2014-15 before the firm decided to direct its resources to acquiring rival Valspar. SHW is on an increasingly speedy glidepath to pay down debt from the Valspar acquisition, possibly by 2022.
SHW has been in its current headquarters in the Landmark Office Tower at 101 W. Prospect Avenue in Downtown Cleveland, Ohio since 1930. The company expanded and filled out that building after it acquired it in 1985 and has since spread its 4,400 employees to multiple facilities in Greater Cleveland.
These facilities include the neighboring Skylight Office Tower, offices for the Performance Coatings Group at 4780 Hinckley Industrial Parkway in Cleveland, plus the Automotive Division Headquarters, 4440 Warrensville Center Rd. in Warrensville Heights. SHW also operates the Breen Technology Center, 601 Canal Rd. and additional automotive research facilities in Warrensville Heights.
The new HQ+R&D facilities will reportedly house 6,000 workers, several sources said.
“Given the limitations of our current footprint and driven by the needs of our customers, we are exploring options that will help us to accelerate productivity and efficiency, enhance technology and innovation, enable greater collaboration, support recruitment and retention and reduce maintenance costs over the long term,” Morikis added.
In its press release, SHW said the company will update employees and external stakeholders on an ongoing basis as the multi-year process goes forward. In the meantime, SHW will continue to focus its efforts on the service, quality and innovations that fuel the company’s commitment to help customers around the world succeed, the company said in its written statement.