Campbell to sell Danish snack manufacturer for $300M

Camden-based Campbell Soup Co. announced Friday it has agreed to offload Denmark-based Kelsen Group to Ferrero affiliate CTH Invest for approximately $300 million.

The Kelsen Group, which had net sales of approximately $157 million over the last 12 months, is a manufacturer of baked snacks sold under brands such as Kjeldsens and Royal Dansk. The company is part of Campbell International, which includes Arnott’s biscuits; Campbell’s simple meals businesses in Australia, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Japan; and manufacturing operations in Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia.

“The sale of Kelsen Group supports our strategy to focus on North America where we have iconic brands and strong market positions, while reducing debt. Throughout the divestiture process, we have considered many options for our valuable international assets. Selling Kelsen separately from the rest of our international business generates the greatest possible value for Campbell. We are committed to the divestiture of the remainder of our international operations and will remain disciplined as we move forward,” Mark Clouse, Campbell CEO and president, said.

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of fiscal 2020.

Centerview Partners, Goldman Sachs and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP advised Campbell in the sale.

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NJR Chairman, CEO Downes to retire; Westhoven named successor

New Jersey Resources announced Friday its chairman and CEO, Laurence M. Downes, is retiring.

Downes said he will retire on Sept. 30 after spending 34 years with the company and 24 at the helm. NJR also announced Steve Westhoven will be succeeding Downes and will take over as CEO and president on Oct. 1.

The Wall-based energy provider, also the parent company of New Jersey Natural Gas, said Downes will continue to serve as chairman of the board until the company’s annual shareholder meeting.

File photo
Steve Westhoven will become CEO of New Jersey Resources.

Downes joined NJR in 1985 and was named treasurer in 1986, followed by vice president and treasurer in 1988. He was then promoted to senior vice president and chief financial officer in 1990 and executive vice president of NJNG in 1994. Downes was the named CEO, president and chairman of NJR’s board of directors in 1996.

“It has been a privilege to be a part of the New Jersey Resources family for more than three decades,” Downes said. “I’m grateful to the women and men of our company, past and present, who have made us the organization we are today. Their hard work has earned us 13 J.D. Power Awards — more than any other utility in New Jersey; significantly improved the performance of our delivery system; increased the value of our company more than tenfold and helped over 1,800 community service organizations annually across New Jersey. I know our team will continue to deliver on our commitment to our stakeholders for many years to come.”

Westhoven joined the company in 1990 and was named vice president of NJR Energy Services in 2004 and senior vice president in 2010. He was then promoted to executive vice president and chief operating officer in 2017, followed by president and chief operating officer in 2018.

“Larry’s outstanding leadership has driven strong performance at New Jersey Resources for more than three decades. His passion for customers, employees and the communities we serve has delivered consistent results. On behalf of the Board, we sincerely thank Larry for his contributions over the years.” said Donald L. Correll, lead director of NJR’s board. “The board is confident, under Steve’s leadership, we will continue to grow our business, serve our customers and communities, support our employees and deliver performance for our investors.”

Downes also served as chairman of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority board until resigning earlier this year.

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Hylan expands operations in Ariz., Calif.

Hylan, a Holmdel-based provider of specialized communications engineering and construction services, announced Tuesday it has expanded its operations in Arizona and California.

Hylan West, a construction company and division of Hylan, has opened three new offices in Phoenix, Arizona; Long Beach, California; and Sacramento, California; Hylan said, to support the growth of fiber and telecommunications construction demand in those markets.

“We are excited to continue our national expansion across our Hylan Companies,” Robert DiLeo, CEO of Hylan, said. “Hylan West is experiencing significant momentum with high profile projects that will continue to expand its footprint across the west and southwest. Our proven, turnkey capabilities and customer commitment strategically fulfills the growing need for telecommunications infrastructure for companies and government agencies of all sizes.”

The company said it plans to hire new team members in construction, fiber optics, commercial driving and engineering.

“As we expand, we are seeking new talent to add to the Hylan family,” states Slade Ottney, President of Hylan West. “We strongly believe in creating a family-like atmosphere for all of our employees and are thrilled to create new job opportunities in the key markets where we continue to grow and serve.”

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Youth movement: Unions are using everything from video games to history lessons to recruit next generation

You won’t find any scolding labor leaders telling youth to put down the video game controller and get to work.

Instead, they’re handing them the controllers, so they’ll get to work.

Greg Lalevee shows U.S Rep. Mikie Sherill how to use the crane simulator at the union’s training center.

Greg Lalevee, business manager for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825, said his organization is enticing millennials — and the generation that precedes them, too — with video game-like simulations of the sort of heavy machinery his members work with.

It has been a hit.

“So, for young people into their Xbox, we have this great opportunity now to easily transition them to this work,” Lalevee said. “These young people get to make an informed choice about whether this is something they want to continue down as a career path in a way that interests them.” 

It’s just one of the ways unions are trying to stay ahead of the curve on the demographic shifts that have every organization scratching their heads.

What’s the best way to appeal to millennials? Lalevee isn’t sure labor unions have it totally figured out yet, but he’s certain that these organizations realize the importance of the question today — given this demographic’s increasing majority in the workplace.

His organization has found a mix of technology and education to be the missing pieces of the puzzle. The Springfield-based Local 825 is transforming its training program into a two-year technical college that’s responsive to the latest robotics, artificial intelligence and virtual reality tools.

“We want to be at the college fair with mom and dad and tell them that blue-collar work isn’t such a bad place to be,” Lalevee said. “The pay is decent; the benefits are terrific. And, oh, by the way, we’re not abandoning your child’s educational path. We can continue it.”

The end-goal is connecting with a young base of workers that can bolster union numbers that have steadily fallen over the course of millennials’ lives. 

In 1983, the first year that U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics had union membership data available (and also nearly the cut-off between millennials and the Generation X population before them), there were 17.7 million union workers. The number of wage and salary workers in unions stood at 14.7 million in last year’s BLS total.

Union leaders such as Lalevee are confident that millennials generally respond favorably to the idea of organized labor participation, even if they grew up during the tail-end of the country’s sharpest declines in union density.

In New Jersey, the impression young people have of labor unions is dictated largely by what part of the state they come from, according to Tom Walsh, president of a union that represents workers in retail manufacturing and a variety of other industries.

“I’ve found that there’s two different types of millennials: The millennials from urban areas are more receptive and eager to listen,” he said. “But, then, when we go towards the suburban areas, they don’t even want to talk to you.

“They think things are going to just pan out for them no matter what, so they don’t want to hear it. It’s a very strange dynamic.”

Walsh’s Local 262, like most unions, needs to win over millennial workers in order to continue to thrive. That’s not always easy. Millennials, even with the reputation that precedes them of being engaged do-gooders, aren’t always predisposed to see the value in union membership.

Walsh described an attempt to organize an ambulance group in suburban New Jersey that went awry when the company found out employees were talking to the union.

Tom Walsh

“They just completely stopped answering the phone,” he said. “But, at a place I’m organizing now in Elizabeth with a lot of millennials, one of their coworkers got fired — and that’s just making them feel more strongly about it. Now, they really want the union in there. They’re constantly calling, day and night, giving me information and asking me what they can do.”

There are young workers — and future union members, Walsh hopes — that have become some of the union’s staunchest advocates.

“And any time we ask if they’ll come to something, they’ll always be there,” he said. “You can’t count on that from all young people. Especially those from suburban areas, they have so much more fear.”

Walsh believes that, taken as a whole, unions have excelled at keeping up with technology and appealing to millennials in through digital channels. At the same time, he also thinks there’s a disconnect.

“Kids coming out of school are so often thinking that government officials are doing something like minimum wage bills out of the kindness of their hearts, and not community groups and unions pushing for this change for years,” he said. “We need to do a better job educating kids from an early age on what unions have done throughout history to improve the safety of workplaces and quality of life, because that’s neglected.”

With millennials in the workplace, have been handed an opportunity to reintroduce labor unions to a working population that doesn’t share many of the same preconceptions as other generations.  

“We’ve been unfortunately stereotyped for a long time,” Lalevee said. “But I can go through our membership and introduce you to the Little League coaches, the Boy Scout or Girl Scout leaders, the PTO president. These are regular people involved in their communities. That’s who we are.”

And, as far as who these unions will continue to be — that’s up to millennials.

The other face of Janus

Last June, the Janus decision shook labor leaders. 

The landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturned union-favorable law that held for four decades prior, suddenly making public-sector union support optional for employees.

Tom Walsh of Local 262 said the expected immediate impact was that it would make the job of keeping union members active in the public sector extremely difficult. It didn’t directly affect his organization, but he was concerned about the blow it would strike to all labor unions.

Almost exactly a year into the change, no labor leader is saying unions are down for the count.

“If I’m just going off what sister (labor unions) have told me, it hasn’t really hugely affected them at all,” Walsh said. 

One step back, two steps forward. That’s how Greg Lalevee of Local 825 described it.

“From what I understand, the public employee unions that Janus was a direct hit on have maintained or increased membership since,” Lalevee said. “And even us, though not necessarily affected by it, we’re getting more and more calls after it from people interested in unionizing their workplaces.”

Conversation Starter

Reach Greg Lalevee of Local 825 at: or 973-671-6900.

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Time warp: When a company works around the globe, like Certara, the clock is always ticking

The clock tells her it’s the workday’s end, but Ellen Leinfuss knows better.

That’s because, as she commutes home from her company’s Princeton base in the evening, Australia is just hitting its stride.

Leinfuss is chief corporate affairs officer at Certara, which is a leader in an industry that calls for this sort of global timekeeping: pharmaceutical drug development.

And it’s becoming more and more necessary to keep a watch on what’s going on as far off as Australia as each day passes.

The United States, and the so-called Medicine Chest the company is based in, may still headline drug development efforts, but it’s not the only story today.

A provider of solutions that assist drug development from discovery through clinical stages, Certara has spread its services and products to about 1,700 companies, academic institutions and regulatory agencies in 60 different countries.

About 60% of its work is in the U.S., 30% lies in Europe and 10 percent (and quickly rising) is in Asia-Pacific.

“The U.S. is the largest market,” she said. “The second-largest would be (Europe), if you combined all of Europe into one. And then the third, in terms of developed markets, is actually Japan. China is also starting to come on strong. So, our business follows that same cycle.”

We like to recruit the top talent to our organization regardless of where they’re located. That’s how we’ve grown globally and how we’ll continue to.” — Ellen Leinfuss

There’s a head-spinning amount of agencies (and acronyms) that make the rules and decide whether new drugs pass muster. The three big ones are the U.S. FDA (Food & Drug Administration), the EMA (the European Medicines Agency) and the PMDA (Japan’s Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency).

“They all learn from each other,” Leinfuss said. “Even if the FDA sets the standard, the rest aren’t required to follow. They collaborate.”

What these agencies all have in common, she added, is that they’ve all embraced the benefits of model-informed drug development. Simply put, this is the application of a wide range of models in drug development that lead the decision?making process and ultimately secure one of these agency’s approvals of a new medicine.

Leinfuss explained that, in the past five years, model-informed drug development “has migrated from more of an academic nicety to a regulatory necessity.” Now, almost every approved drug has leveraged it in some way, she added.

Certara offers guidance on this process, as well as related software for those with drug candidates. More than 90% of FDA-approved novel drugs over the past four years were supported by the company in some way.

Besides consultative services, Certara has distributes a line of software products to emerging markets for drug development such as Korea, Israel and Australia, which Leinfuss said have built sophisticated local pharmaceutical industries.

The company has a pool of about 850 employees, but they’re scattered throughout at least 15 countries due to the industry’s global proliferation. Many of those employees communicate with teams based in other countries remotely.

So that means they, like Leinfuss, often know what time it is on the other side of the world.

“We like to recruit the top talent to our organization regardless of where they’re located,” she said. “That’s how we’ve grown globally and how we’ll continue to.”

Conversation Starter

Reach Certara at: or 609-716-7900.

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N.J. American Water wraps up $1.4M deal for Mt. Ephraim sewer system

New Jersey American Water has completed its $1.4 million acquisition of the Mount Ephraim wastewater assets, it announced recently.

The Camden-based utility company said it purchased the borough-owned sewer system, which serves approximately 1,800 customers — most of whom get their water service from New Jersey American Water.

“As Mount Ephraim’s water company for more than a decade and a water provider to the area for over 90 years, we are pleased to expand our relationship with residents as their sewer service provider,” New Jersey American Water President Cheryl Norton said in a prepared statement. “Water and sewer is all we do, and we are deeply committed to making improvements to ensure the community’s sewer service is as clean, safe, reliable and affordable as the water service we provide.”

The state Board of Public Utilities approved the deal last month after residents voted in November 2018 to sell the system to New Jersey American Water.

The utility plans to invest more than $4 million in system upgrades over the next four years, while freezing rates for two years and increasing them no more than 3% over the following three years.

“The sale of our sewer system to New Jersey American Water is a big win for the residents of Mount Ephraim,” Mayor Joseph Wolk said in a statement. “By selling the system, we are eliminating uncontrollable sewer costs, which have been a major uncertainty in our budget. … The $1.4 million purchase price will be used to reduce the borough’s municipal debt. This is a great outcome for our residents.”

New Jersey American Water is a unit of Camden-based American Water.

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More than (a) fair: Construction Industry Career Day has built successful comeback around next generation

Labor unions and the employers they negotiate with in the construction sector both agree: They’ve got to build better bridges with Generation Z and its millennial predecessors. 

The annual Construction Industry Career Day is just that sort of opportunity.

Like other industries, the construction trade sits on the shaky workforce foundation of Baby Boomers a few years from retirement — meaning there is a tremendous demand for replacements.

So, the annual event, held at the end of May, is when those in the industry get to tell high school students why working in the sector provides a stable career with good starting salaries and benefits. Best of all? The kids have a career path without college debt. That’s especially relevant now that millennials are lugging around tons of it.

A student, top, gets hands-on experience building a wooden toolbox from a trade professional.

Jill Schiff, the executive director of operations at Associated Construction Contractors of New Jersey, the organization that hosts the event in concert with other groups, busily coordinated the affair. And busily is the right way to put it — the event has grown tremendously.

“We see the word getting out about this, and not just to vocational schools,” she said. “This year, we have 75 different school districts coming here from all of New Jersey’s counties. That’s up from about 60 last year.”

This represents a triumphant return for the event. It was first started back in 2001 but was paused eight years later — in the middle of the country’s Great Recession — and only resumed two years ago.

“We had to put it on hold when the economy plummeted,” Schiff said. “We didn’t feel it was the right thing to do to bring people into an industry with around 40 percent unemployment. We were asked to bring this back in 2017 and we’ve had a lot of success with it since.”

Thousands of Garden State high school juniors and seniors, career guidance counselors and others showed up at the New Jersey Expo Center in Raritan Center to speak to representatives of trade unions and other industry groups about job positions in the sector. 

They also got to pound nails and smooth mortar at mock jobsites, exposing prospects for the first time to what it’s like to work in the industry. Today’s attendees are also able to experience the construction jobsites remotely through virtual reality and other simulation technology.

“You have to introduce them to this in a way that appeals to that generation,” Schiff said. “And our trades go out of their way to do that.”

Robert Lewandowski, communications director at New Jersey Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust, said his organization and others haul in more of these devices every year to get attendees as close as they can safely be to construction equipment. Having technology be part of the students’ first impression of the industry is necessary, he said.

“It tells these students that this isn’t your grandparents’ construction industry anymore,” he explained. “I think there was a time you hired most construction workers from the neck down, mostly due to the type of work that carpenters and other trades were doing. But these jobs are more complex today.”

A student, left, gets a lesson in welding. ­

Although youth might be attracted to tech-minded industries, union leaders admit they’ve sometimes underestimated their patience for more tactile experiences. 

During last year’s event, for example, Lewandowski’s organization came in with the idea that high school students would be glued to their phones. So, his team figured they would be entertained by activities such as photo booths with hard hats and lumberjack-like beards for silly social media selfies.

They were wrong.

“It just didn’t work at all,” he said. “Rather than having their phones out, the kids were just so engaged; they wanted to get in there and practice building scaffolding or do pipe fusion.”

What works today might not tomorrow, but Lewandowski would put his money on authenticity remaining a constant in reaching the next generation of workers.

“I think kids today are suspicious of too much of a salesman,” he said. “They want to figure things out themselves — and they get to do that here at booths not filled with salesmen, but tradesmen. That resonates with them.”

Resonating with today’s young people isn’t just important for the continuation of the construction industry as it rebuilds a fast-retiring workforce. Lewandowski doesn’t have any illusions about every high school student attending Construction Industry Career Day and going out to buy a hammer the next day.

But the trade and its affiliated unions still want to nail the first impression, because that can last a lifetime.

“Ultimately, this isn’t just for the transaction involved in getting people into these careers, but it’s also about transforming peoples’ attitudes,” he said. “So, maybe when they go off to be an accountant, they can say they know what construction trades look like: It’s impressive and it’s an advanced career.”

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Employment grows in June, but not by large amount: ADP report

Private-sector employment grew nationwide from May to June, according to the latest report from Roseland-based ADP, but the numbers failed to impress.

The human resources and payroll company said in its latest National Employment Report that the U.S. gained 102,000 nonfarm private-sector jobs in June.

That wasn’t particularly good news, however.

“Job growth started to show signs of a slowdown,” Ahu Yildirmaz, vice president and co-head of the ADP Research Institute, said in a prepared statement. “While large businesses continue to do well, small businesses are struggling as they compete with the ongoing tight labor market.”

While large businesses of 500 or more employees gained 65,000 jobs for the month, and medium businesses of 50-499 employees added 60,000, small businesses of under 50 employees lost 23,000 jobs, ADP said.

In addition, while the services sector added 117,000 jobs for the month, the goods-producing sector lost 15,000 positions.

“The goods-producing sector continues to show weakness,” Yildirmaz said. “Among services, leisure and hospitality’s weakness could be a reflection of consumer confidence.”

Among industries, education and health services was the big gainer, adding 55,000 jobs, while professional and business services added 32,000 and trade/transportation/utilities added 23,000. On the other hand, construction lost 18,000 jobs and two other industries, natural resources/mining and information, also finished down from May.

“The job market continues to throttle back,” Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, said in a statement. “Job growth has slowed sharply in recent months, as businesses have turned more cautious in their hiring. Small businesses are the most nervous, especially in the construction sector and at bricks-and-mortar retailers.”

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Imperial Dade continues to grow through acquisitions

Food service and janitorial supply company Imperial Dade has expanded into California with its 23rd acquisition, The Paper Co. Inc., the Jersey City-based firm announced Monday.

The Paper Co. Inc., founded in 1982, is a family-owned and -operated wholesale distribution business that serves Southern California.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“The Paper Co.’s commitment to its customers and partners, along with its family-operated culture, makes the business a great addition to the Imperial Dade platform,” CEO Robert Tillis said in a prepared statement. “We are excited to expand our national footprint by entering the California market and look forward to working together with the Paper Co. team to further grow the business.”

Keystone Capital Markets represented the Paper Co. in the transaction.

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Pioneer Power Solutions selling 2 transformer units for $65.5M

Pioneer Power Solutions Inc., a Fort Lee-based maker of electrical transmission and distribution equipment, has agreed to sell its liquid filled and dry type transformer businesses to a private equity firm for $65.5 million.

The deal with Mill Point Capital, which is funding the transaction with $60.5 million in cash and a $5 million note, will see Pioneer Transformers Ltd. and Pioneer Dry Type Transformer Group — including Jefferson Electric Inc., Bemag Tranformer Inc. and Harmonics Ltd. LLC — taken over by the middle-market firm.

“Our belief that our assets were worth more individually than the market valuation of our combined organization is validated by this transaction, wherein we will divest a portion of our business for approximately 1.5x our current market capitalization, while retaining two exciting businesses and our status as a publicly traded Nasdaq listed company,” Chairman and CEO Nathan Mazurek said in a prepared statement. “Following the closing of this transaction, we plan to focus on streamlining and enhancing our Titan business in Minneapolis and our switchgear business in Los Angeles.”

Pioneer will retain its Pioneer Critical Power and Pioneer Custom Electrical Products units, along with shares and warrants in CleanSpark Inc.

The transaction is expected to close in the second half of the year, pending customary approvals and conditions.

Lincoln International acted as exclusive financial adviser to Pioneer.

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