Musings, opinions, observations, questions, and random thoughts on island life, Fernandina Beach and more

Musings, opinions, observations, questions, and random thoughts on island life, Fernandina Beach and more

Pharma Company Finds A Rx For Happiness By Moving The Jersey Firm To Amelia Island

In 1978 the complexion of Amelia Island was changed forever when Union Carbide gave up plans for an industrial mining operation on the south end of Amelia Island and sold its property there to Charles Fraser, owner of Sea Pines Company of Hilton Head, who developed the Plantation Resort complex.

It’s ironic then that despite mining plans being abandoned 40 years ago, mining on an unprecedented scale is currently taking place in the same area, but this time for data instead of mineral resources.

Today’s mining operations are quietly conducted by dtw Research Inc., a privately owned company specializing in providing critical information to pharmaceutical companies and their advertising agencies around the globe.

While you may never have heard of the firm, chances are you’re familiar with its work if you’ve seen a pharmaceutical ad in a magazine or online or picked up literature at a doctor’s office, hospital, trade show or elsewhere.

The local company plays a significant behind the scenes role in pharmaceutical advertisements, product launches, brochures, and other marketing efforts for drugs for almost every known human affliction ranging from asthma and arthritis to acne and Alzheimer’s. Its customers include between 80-85 percent of the U.S., Canada, and western Europe’s pharmaceutical companies and their advertising agencies.

Pharmaceutical companies and their ad agencies look to dtw Research to track and analyze the tsunami of promotional materials flooding the market, as well as to monitor and report changes impacting the industry such as government FDA approvals, public awareness, the medical industry’s views and opinions, the impact of negative or positive news stories, market trends and much more. The company maintains the most comprehensive online database of pharmaceutical promotional materials anywhere for the global pharmaceutical industry.

The first thing a visitor to the company notices are the hundreds of plastic bins lining the hallways of the building, each labeled with a disease or ailment such as gout, shingles, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, and so on that are constantly replenished with the most current literature describing drugs to treat those afflictions. That material, which pours in daily, is distributed to the appropriate staff for scanning, analysis, etc.

Any pharmaceutical company subscribing to dtw’s Research marketing intelligence and surveillance services receives not only access to its competition’s marketing efforts, but knows that dtw will drill down to provide a variety of detail that can include, among other things, competitive discounting strategies such as co-pay cards and coupons, patient access and assistance programs, product launch strategies, and much more — competitive information critical to successful product launches as well as maintaining constant product awareness. A variety of research options and several types of promotional analytics are available depending on the customer’s needs.

Unlike many current Amelia Island residents who retire and move to the island after spending years vacationing here, company owners Richard Wetzel and wife, Pam Statile, took it a step further and, instead of waiting, moved their entire company, lock, stock and barrel to the island.

Amelia Island headquarters of dtw Research, Inc.

The entrepreneurial family fled their Flanders, NJ, home in 2013 moving the company and constructing an attractive and discreet 8,500-square-foot headquarters facility tucked away in a tree-shaded location at 4812 First Coast Highway (A1A), between Palmetto Walk and the Harris Teeter shopping area.

“We vacationed here as a family and we loved it,” says firm President Ms. Statile, who also lauded the area as “a great place to recruit employees”, adding that in addition to being rich in talent, she discovered a bonus: “The people here are really, really nice.”

The firm currently employs some 45 local staff whose jobs are to gather, sort, scan and analyze the massive amount of  promotional materials produced by the pharmaceutical industry in the U.S., Canada, and western Europe. They also keep track of how those products are performing, monitor government approval status, and media reaction, among many other tasks.

The firm maintains a sales staff in the northern U.S. and Europe.

One of the three founders of the company, Richard Wetzel, is an industry pioneer in online pharmaceutical research, which he developed and began employing in the late 1980s. His efforts  eventually led to the founding of dtw Research in 1996, along with two other business partners,  Gary Troast and Mike Doctor, thus the company’s name using the first initials of the founder’s last names. Wetzel is semi-retired, Troast is deceased and Doctor left the group several years ago.

Today the privately-held multi-million dollar firm is run by Wetzel’s veteran pharmaceutical industry savvy wife, Pam, who serves as company president, responsible for day-to-day operations. Semi-retired husband, Richard, comes in as needed on various projects, while son, Matthew, serves as the firm’s director of Corporate Operations. As a privately held corporation the company isn’t required to publically release financial data.

Ms. Statile says the greatest challenge facing dtw Research today is managing its rapid growth and keeping up with technological changes, issues facing most successful companies. Detailed information about the company can be obtained at


Employee Do-Gooders: Employees of dtw Research not only obtain satisfaction from knowing that their day-to-day work efforts aid in providing beneficial medical treatment to people around the world, but they also donate their personal time and money to ensuring that those serving in the U.S. military overseas know that they are appreciated. Jo-Ann Pimentel, a dtw team-leader, spearheads the company’s Adopt-A-Soldier group that ships supplies (snacks, coffee, socks, etc) to US troops stationed  in the Middle East. In addition to the hundreds of boxes of items the employees ship to troops annually a number of employees conduct a once a year cookie bake for the troops. Just last week their efforts generated the following letter from a U.S. Navy chaplain thanking the dtw folks for their thoughtfulness:

WOW WOW WOW. I received boxes from Jo-Ann who is part of the Adopt-A-Soldier
Savannah. These boxes are amazing. Makie loves the dog treats and I will
make sure she gets a stocking before she leaves here next month. Dozer,
unfortunately, left a few weeks ago. We should have some replacement MWDs
coming in and thanks to you all, we have plenty of stuff for them! Also, the
boxes you sent are just jammed packed with amazing things.

I think it had some Chick-Fil-A Sauce in one box…That is like the nectar
of the gods! Thanks so much, you truly are amazing.

Blessings upon you all,
Chaplain Nicholas Dewhurst


Clueless Jaguar

Jacksonville Crime Stats Rise While Jags Plummet: Not wanting to waste the $2.14 price of a happy hour beer, I salvaged a pub customer’s discarded copy of the Monday, October 22 issue of the over-priced Florida Times-Union, in which the above the fold, front page headline screamed: “JSO: 6 shot half-mile from Jags’ stadium” while the second lead story headline proclaimed: “Limping into London” detailing the city’s NFL team’s dismal Sunday, 20-7, pounding by the Houston Texans. Inside the beer and wing-sauce stained Times-Union sports pages Jacksonville Jaguar player, Jalen Ramsey, who obviously didn’t major in English at his Florida State alma mater, was quoted by sports columnist Gene Frenette in the  locker room following the game saying: “What you think, man? You all walk in here, you all see how it is in here, you all see how we vibe towards the coaches, you all see how it is. It’s no secret what’s going on here right now. Ain’t nobody going to say it because we can’t, but it ain’t no secret what’s going on, and it ain’t right right now. It is what it is.” What Mr. Ramsey apparently was trying to communicate — much to the embarrassment of FSU’s English Department — is that there was something negative going on in the team’s locker room following the team’s loss and he was challenging Mr. Frenette to discover what it was, which Mr. Frenette attempted to do, in a tedious half page of mind-numbing copy about a group of inept football players inarticulately whining, while just down the street six of their fellow citizens were being shot to pieces, three with life-threatening bullet wounds. In the meantime something called JAXUSA Partnership Regional Economic Development Forum wants counties surrounding Jacksonville, including Nassau, to “embrace Jacksonville as the name of the region” versus “Northeast Florida.” Nassau County officials should respond to that request by paraphrasing Mr. Ramsey, telling the JAXUSA group: “It ain’t no secret what’s going on there right now and it ain’t right right now and embracing that mess just ain’t gonna happen.”


Beer, Beaches & The Sandman: Lured by the promise of ice cold Bud Light tall boys, I found myself Wednesday evening, October 17, sitting among a group of some 120 or more very stern looking folks in the second story meeting room at the Story & Song Bookstore at 1430 Park Street, listening to a talk by “The Sandman”, one who kept his audience wide awake instead of lulling them into dreamland.

Sipping on my beer and fully prepared to be bored into a stupor, I was pleasantly surprised when the affable and entertaining Sandman, Dr. Frank Hopf, appeared in front of the group and began discussing the evening’s topic: “Protecting Amelia island’s Dunes; Protecting Island Residents.”

Dr. Hopf , PhD, PE (Texas), PhD, Geomorphologist, knows what he’s talking about as his entire life has been devoted to the scientific study of the Earth’s surface, including our sand dunes.

He’s not only as smart as all the letters behind his name would indicate, but he made his presentation understandable and entertaining while explaining dune formation, the habitat dunes provide, how they protect residents during hurricanes, and the human activities that threaten them – and Amelia Island residents.

Heed the Sandman’s warnings.

Dr. Hopf told the audience a lot of things we didn’t know, some things that are nice to know, and things we need to know. His take away call-to-action for all residents of the island was simple and direct: Protect the sand dunes, because that’s all that sits between us and the ocean and prevent it from sweeping everything in its path away.

He set the table for his talk describing the history of the island, going back 530 million years when Amelia Island was part of what today is the African continent and even boasted its own mountain range, and how over millions of years, due to continental drift, it ended up where it is now. Most of us admitted we couldn’t recall any of that so we took his word for it.

He also explained how Amelia Island is a barrier island and as such is nothing but a huge pile of sand. And did you know that the area from Amelia Island up to Tybee Island on the Georgia coast features the highest tides on the entire east coast of the U.S.? And that Amelia Island has the highest tides in Florida. Well, that’s what he told us.

All this leads up to why the dunes are so important. I’m no tree-hugger, but he got my attention. And his message is simple — don’t mess with the vegetation on the dunes! It anchors them and without it the dunes get blown way, and then we’re next. “What mucks of the sand dunes is damaging the vegetation and building on or in front of them,” he emphatically stressed.

For folks on the south end of the island he had some good news, telling them they are in pretty good shape because most structures there are behind the dunes.

Do not touch!

But for the folks on the north end he had some bad news. You’re in trouble. Particularly those closest to the beach. To keep the ocean at bay he continued to emphasize the importance of staying off the dunes and protecting the vegetation. He also strongly condemned driving on the beach.

“Amelia island is one of the least likely areas to be hit by a storm” he says the experts predict. “But he added that those same experts also predicted that same thing for the northeast U.S. prior to Hurricane Sandy and Mexico Beach before Florence.”

Using very official looking aerial photos, charts, and graphs he explained how if a storm hits here “the north end will flood and the buildings across from the Surf Restaurant northward will be in big trouble.”

He wrapped up the evening repeating his mantra: “Don’t walk on the dunes, don’t drive on the beach, don’t build on or in front of the dunes and don’t touch the vegetation on the dunes.”

The event was by sponsored by The Amelia Island Beach and Marine Life Protection Task Force. For more information on this group contact


Drinking, Dining & Dancing: The Saturday, November 3 annual Taste of Amelia takes a different direction this year with guests forking out $40 each to meet in downtown Fernandina Beach for a “Culinary Crawl”, that enables them to sample the fare at a variety of local restaurants between 3-6 p.m. including Espana, Amelia Tavern, Arte, Florida House, Fantastic Fudge, 29 South, Pi Pizza, Nana Teresa’s, Marlin & Barrel, The Crab Trap, Patio Place Bistro, Palace Saloon, Decantery, Amelia Coffee Shop, Picnic Basket, Salty Pelican, Pablo’s, etc. Tickets can be purchased by visiting Wrist bands can be picked up at the pocket park on Centre Street November 3, beginning at 2 p.m. The event is sponsored by the Rotary Club of Fernandina Beach with proceeds going to that organization’s scholarship fund for Nassau County public school seniors.

  • Comment (7)
  • Dave, you provided a comprehensive review of Dr. Hopf’s presentation! I don’t think you missed any important points. Thank you! Excellent!

    Well worth the beer. 🙂

  • Thanks, Dave. We live near dtw Research. Was always curious about the nature of their business.

  • Great commentary on the Sandman. With our population ever growing and people wanting to be beach bums and surf swimmers (myself included) we have to heed the Doctors warnings! I get so frustrated when I see people blazing a trail through the sea oats, instead of using walkovers…sometimes right next to it! That’s crazy and lazy. As far as the tide swings, yup, we have some of the highest tides in Florida 5-7′ on average, cycling every 5 1/2 hours. I also heard that although our probability of a direct hurricane strike may be statistically low, they are on statistics, and there are always exceptions sooner or later. To further exacerbate matters, I read that if we have a storm, the surge impact will be amplified by the cup effect of our cost between St. Augustine to Savannah…so, for example a Cat. 1 storm surge could be like a Cat. 2. The lesson, as Dr. Hopf stated was we HAVE to protect our dunes (what we have left of them, and build away from the shore, and do whatever we can to mitigate the destruction of barrier island systems. Damn Dave, you and me agreeing on topic again? Nice! You may not be a tree-hugger , but being a dune-hugger is pretty good!

  • Enjoy reading your blog and in particular your recent write up on the the Sandman and protecting the dunes as it is spot on. Given you recent post on who you are voting for, I would enjoy your opinion on what it would take to get Amelia Island to stop driving (AKA parking) on the beach. The currently legal parking on the beach in designated areas leads to nightly illegal romps down the beach resulting in damage from one end to the other. This morning among numerous tracks, there was one one that was 4in deep and close to the dunes and over newly formed vegetation running from Sadler to Peter’s Point.
    Ironic that Amelia Island is often touted in national press as an enviromental oasis and one of the top 10 nicest beaches (beautiful as it is) in the US even with parking and driving on the beach.

  • Thank you for enlightening Amelia Island about DTW Research! I wish the NewsLeader would print this and let all of Nassau County know!


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