Kenvue breaks ground in Summit: Big win for science — and huge hold for New Jersey

Call it corporate attraction and retention: Why state’s life science history, resources made staying in N.J. easy choice for J&J consumer health spinoff

As much as it was billed as a ground-breaking for the new global headquarters of the new company — and there was plenty of construction equipment and a shovel ceremony to attest to that — Kenvue’s big event Wednesday morning in Summit was more about the state holding onto its past in a way that bodes well for its future.

Kenvue, the multibillion-dollar consumer health care spinoff of Johnson & Johnson, said it proudly retains its 135-year history in the state. But, when it was created as a new company in 2023, Kenvue could have easily found a location in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California or anywhere else.

CEO Thibaut Mongon said New Jersey’s life science attributes were so strong that going elsewhere didn’t make sense.

Kenvue CEO Thibaut Mongon, left, with Gov. Phil Murphy.

“It was about our connection to proximity to our customers, our consumers, our partners (and) our investors,” he said. “We fully believe in the power of collaboration and inclusion.

“The other piece was talent. We rely on highly skilled talent to be successful as a company. And we found that, in Summit, we had access to a pool of highly skilled talent in the scientific field, and the non-science field as well.”

Kenvue announced it was moving to the former Celgene site in April 2023, a few months before the company officially launched.

It will be the sole tenant on the 46-acre landscaped campus ideal for research & development, health care and specialty uses that was purchased by Onyx Equities in 2021.

Kenvue, which entered into a long-term lease, is creating a newly renovated office building and a newly constructed Science and Innovation Lab that will encompass a total of approximately 290,000 square feet.

Mongon said some of the expected 3,000 workers on the campus will begin moving in during the opening quarters of 2025. The buildout should be complete by the first quarter of 2026.

Gov. Phil Murphy couldn’t be happier about it. Having Kenvue stay in the state was a big win for New Jersey — and one that didn’t cost a penny in incentives.

Murphy is hoping the company’s commitment — and praise of the state’s talent pool — will pay off with other companies seeking a home.

“This is a huge day for New Jersey,” he said. “Kenvue, notwithstanding your over 135-year rich history in New Jersey, as a new company, rightfully, on behalf of your shareholders and your employees and your other constituents, had to reassess and ultimately recommit to New Jersey.

“You could have gone anywhere. We’re incredibly honored that you picked Summit and stayed in the great state of New Jersey. And, we think it’s a decision that will pay off for decades to come.”

Summit Mayor Elizabeth Fagan was just as happy. For her town, long a center for life sciences, having a company such as Kenvue fill the void that Celgene left will pay off in many ways — starting with an increased demand for housing (not that Summit needs it) and more dollars spent locally (at stores and restaurants).

Fagan, a physician, said having another life science anchor in town (Bristol Myers Squibb also has a location in Summit) means a lot, too.

“It’s a connection with the world,” she said. “It puts Summit on the map, which is really exciting.

“We’re a small town of 23,000 people. So, it’s an opportunity for our kids to see what’s possible.”

Caroline Tillett, the chief scientific officer at Kenvue, said the potential health care breakthroughs at the site are just as big.

“Innovation is a team sport,” she said. “It’s about all of us working together, all of us collaborating.”

To be able to bring the company’s top scientists together with its artificial intelligence, tech and marketing teams in one place is special, Tillett said.

“We’re going to create a global headquarters for Kenuve, but also a center of innovation,” she said. “At the end of the day, Kenvue is about science. It’s at the heart of what we do.”

And Mongon said there’s no better place to do that than New Jersey.

“We needed a home base that allowed us to plant deep roots in a in a vibrant community, one offering us broader access to the global community at large,” he said.

Mongon said Kenvue’s presence in Summit and New Jersey is about more than just a street address.

“As we continue to create products and solutions to help consumers engage more fully with the world, our Summit campus represents more than just a physical building,” he said. “It’s a space where you will have hundreds of highly skilled scientists working together with brilliant Kenvuers from multiple disciplines — marketing, design, AI, tech, data, legal, communications, operations — to together shape the future of consumer health.

“From this campus, in this town, we will work very hard every day to come up with new ideas, new solutions — always driven by science and guided by strong human insights.

“We want to unleash the full potential of Kenvue and make a meaningful impact for our company and the state of New Jersey.”