Ask the Expert

Jim DeLisiJim DeLisi, President, Fanwood Chemical, Inc.

Jim DeLisi is President of Fanwood Chemical, Inc., in Fanwood, NJ, which provides an unusual combination of technical marketing, direct sales, manufacturing and regulatory services...all dedicated to serving the diversified needs of the chemical industry. As a longtime member of SOCMA, DeLisi serves as chairman of SOCMA’s Trade Committee.




How or why did you become involved in the specialty chemical industry and how long have you been a part of the industry? It was 37 years on September 1, 2013. My father started Fanwood Chemical in 1971, and the business had grown to the point that in 1976 he offered me a chance to join him. As part of the deal, I agreed to get an MBA in chemical marketing, which was offered by Fairleigh Dickinson University.

What do you think are the most pressing challenges facing the specialty chemical industry and what solutions do you recommend for addressing them? Downsizing and the move away from basic research are some of the most pressing challenges facing our industry. Society has become so risk averse that companies have diverted the resources that traditionally were used to fund “pie in the sky research” towards protecting what they already have. This type of activity has been replaced with applications research. When they were at their height, the geniuses that had the privilege to work in this environment could, and in fact were encouraged to, synthesize anything from “air, fire and water.” “Better things for better living through chemistry” meant something positive. I don’t know how to change this direction. The international movements that support the expansion of the precautionary principle, that all but killed new specialty chemical product development in Europe, are likely unstoppable.

Do you think there should be common goals within the industry? If so, what would those goals be? No. Healthy completion between chemical companies is the only way to a prosperous industry. “Creative destruction” is important. It allows new firms to rise and penalizes those that sit back and “ride the oars.”

Please share a couple of personal or professional strategies you intend to pursue in 2013 (or next). My goal for 2013 and beyond is to continue to interact/communicate with as many people as possible and stay involved in the aspects of the industry where I have something to contribute.

What are some of the major changes you have seen in the industry since you became a part of it? See answer to #2. There’s also a lack of social interaction due to the internet culture. It is indeed possible to service customer’s needs and do everything on the Internet, but only when everything is going very well. In times of shortage, or problems, a face-to-face understanding of customer’s needs and supplier’s capabilities is crucial. The internet culture is changing this dynamic, and it is not all positive.  

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