Auto market rebound drives business at Bayer's Robinson campus

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A dramatic rebound in U.S. sales of new cars and trucks during the economic recovery is driving business and job growth at Bayer Corp.’s Robinson campus.

Germany-based Bayer doesn’t make cars but it develops and produces high-tech plastics, foams and coatings used in a range of vehicle parts including steering wheels, seats, instrument panels and head lamps.

With sales for new vehicles topping 15 million last year for the first time since before the economic crash in 2008 — and with auto makers demanding lighter, safer and more sustainable parts in cars and trucks — the Bayer MaterialScience unit is in “a very, very strong competitive situation,” said Jerry MacCleary, president of the division's North American region headquartered in the cluster of Bayer buildings that sit along the Parkway West.

Bayer has about 2,200 employees in the Pittsburgh region, including about 1,200 in Robinson and another 1,000 who work for a medical device business formerly known as Medrad that Bayer's health care segment acquired in 2006.

Last year, about 80 employees were hired at Bayer locally — primarily engineers but some in business positions such as supply-chain and marketing, Mr. MacCleary said.

“The U.S. manufacturing market is back and we are hiring,” in Pittsburgh and at Bayer’s large chemical production facility in Baytown, Texas, he said.

The auto industry represents about 21 percent of Bayer MaterialScience' North American sales, said Bruce Benda, head-market development for polycarbonates.

Total sales for Bayer’s North American operations last year were $12.9 million. That includes revenues from material science and from Bayer’s other two global business units: health care, which produces pharmaceuticals, medical products and over-the-counter consumer brands such as the iconic Bayer aspirin, Aleve and One-A-Day vitamins; and crop science, which makes seeds, pesticides, weed treatments and other agricultural products.

Bayer AG’s worldwide sales in 2013 totaled 40.2 billion euros ($55.3 billion).

During a tour of the sprawling Robinson site for media representatives Thursday, Bayer opened several labs to provide an up-close look at technology it has developed for automobiles. The products included materials used in high-performance coatings for flat-bed truck liners and plastic cases for energy-saving LED lighting used in head lamps.

“People don’t know what our products really do for consumers,” said Mr. MacCleary prior to the lab tour.

Besides the North American base for material science, the Robinson facilities house Bayer’s North American data center and some corporate headquarters functions for all of North America.

The site was for decades considered Bayer’s North American corporate headquarters. Since 2012, Bayer’s top executive in North America has been based in Whippany, N.J., where the North American health care business is based.

(Correction, posted April 8, 2014): An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect amount for Bayer AG's worldwide sales in 2013. The story has been corrected.

Joyce Gannon: or 412-263-1580.

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