PhillyDeals: German-based IFM Electronic GmbH opens plant in Malvern

Roger Varma, CEO of IFM Prover , says proximity to engineering schools and ports, plus quality of life, affected the decision.
Roger Varma, CEO of IFM Prover , says proximity to engineering schools and ports, plus quality of life, affected the decision.
Posted: July 25, 2012

What if solvent Germany stops bailing out Europe and goes back to its own, stronger money?

That would make German products cost more.

But privately owned German industrial-sensor and controls maker IFM Electronic GmbH won't have that problem. The company dedicated its new factory and labs in Malvern on Monday, and is adding more abroad.

"We make eight million sensors a year," said Roger Varma, head of the $700 million (in yearly sales) company's IFM Prover USA Inc.me off the line at IFM's factory in Tettnang, Germany. But "we decided to decentralize. This year, we opened plants in Singapore, Poland, and Malvern," Varma told me.

The Great Valley Corporate Center plant will employ 50 engineers, salespeople, and production workers, doubling over the next five years.

IFM has based its $100 million-per-year North American sales group in nearby Exton since 1985, but ran a nationwide search for the factory site. "We made a big analysis that included proximity to engineering schools," plus access to ports and "quality of living," Varma said. The company also sought available skilled labor.

IFM picked Malvern over competing sites in Texas and California. Its proximity to Drexel and the engineering schools at Villanova and Penn State helped, and Varma plans to also recruit at Lehigh. Chester County's new turnpike exit and the widening of U.S. 202, easing commutes for Reading and Philadelphia workers, clinched the deal.

IFM hopes to qualify for state training grants and tax incentives, but financially "the biggest incentive was the facility," at 420 Lapp Rd., Varma added. Short of tenants, like other suburban landlords, Liberty Property Trust agreed to improve the plant and sign a deal-priced 10-year lease.

U.S. clients include automakers Ford, GM, Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW; industrial brewers Anheuser-Busch and Miller, and such food processors as Camden-based Campbell Soup Company, Kraft, and Nestle, among others. Princeton-based Tyco is a supplier.

Against Amazon

Scott Thompson, the ex- PayPal president who was briefly Yahoo's   chief executive officer, has reappeared as CEO of Conshohocken-based ShopRunner, the would-be Amazon.com-killer online-shopping club owned by GSI Commerce founder Michael Rubin's Kynetic L.L.C.

In a memo to workers, ShopRunner president Michael Golden stressed Thompson's role in making PayPal a popular online-payment system - and didn't mention Thompson's departure from Yahoo in May amid a Yahoo board investigation of whether Thompson really had the computer-science degree that his resume claimed.

Anticipating "surprise," Golden insisted that there is room for both bosses, and promised not to leave.

"Scott turned PayPal into a massive force," Golden wrote. "Under his leadership, PayPal grew its user base from 50 million to 104 million active users across 190 countries and had over 8 million merchant partners," making retail-industry contacts that should help ShopRunner. He praised Thompson's "work ethic."

Golden wrote that he and Rubin first met with Thompson in 2009, back when eBay, which owns PayPal, was GSI Commerce's partner in helping midsize retailers fill orders online. Last year, eBay bought most of GSI for $2.5 billion; eBay is a minority owner of Kynetic.

Atop Amazon

"I hate to lose," wrote Vanguard Group founder John C. Bogle, in a note he sent after I reported that veteran Delaware County investor Michael Dever's Jackass Investing: Don't Do It. Profit From It had topped Bogle's titles to rank No. 1 on Amazon.com's fund-investing best-seller list following favorable mention on Bloomberg TV.

"Ahead of Jack Bogle's book, which gives me pleasure," Dever said at the time.

But not for long. Later that week, Bogle's Little Book of Common Sense Investing, first published in 2007, returned to top Dever at Amazon. By Sunday, Bogle's Little Book remained on top, while Common Sense on Mutual Funds, an update of his 2000 book, ranked second. Jackass Investing was off the Top 10.

"Balance restored!" Bogle crowed in his note.


Contact Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5194, JoeD@phillynews.com, @PhillyJoeD

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