Business Facilities Magazine Ranks NC '2020 State of the Year'

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Business Facilities magazine, a national publication serving corporate site selectors and economic development professionals, today proclaimed North Carolina the "2020 State of the Year."  

This marks the first time North Carolina has earned the magazine’s top honor, bestowed annually since 2007 to recognize the best states’ successes in winning projects that create capital investment and new jobs.
“North Carolina is leveraging its advantages ― including a prime logistics location, a steadily expanding skilled workforce and impressive higher education resources ― to seal the deal on one big project after another,” said magazine Editor in Chief Jack Rogers.

“The Tar Heel State has put down a marker that it’s ready to compete for a leadership position in the emerging growth sectors of the 21st century,” he added.

Christopher Chung, chief executive officer of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, welcomed the recognition of business recruitment success in a year when many companies put expansion plans on hold during the downturn of a global pandemic.

“It was reassuring to see the high quality and wide diversity of project wins we had in 2020 – particularly in biotech and pharmaceutical, information technology, food and beverage production, and distribution and warehousing,” Chung said.
All told, companies launching state-supported projects in 2020 announced plans for over 20,000 new jobs and more than $6 billion in investment. The annual announced investment is the highest for North Carolina in over a decade.

“We had some major projects come through in 2020,” Chung said. “For example, even with the aviation industry being hard hit by COVID-19, Pratt & Whitney chose Asheville for a $650 million turbine airfoil production facility that will create 800 new jobs. North Carolina also won one of its largest state-incentivized projects ever with health insurer Centene picking Charlotte for its East Coast headquarters and tech hub – a $1 billion campus that Centene executives expect will create up to 6,000 new jobs over the coming years.”

In terms of capital investment, other big projects launched in 2020 include pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company choosing Durham for a $470 million pharmaceutical manufacturing facility and Nestlé Purina Petcare Company investing $450 million to transform a shuttered Eden brewery into a pet food manufacturing plant.

Chung noted that as the year wrapped up, a significantly higher number of potential new recruitment deals entered the state’s active pipeline in November and December compared to the same period in 2019.

“I think optimism around the accelerated development and approval of multiple effective Covid-19 vaccines is leading companies to pursue expansion plans delayed by the pandemic,” he said. "And North Carolina is remaining a strong contender for those projects."

NC books $2 billion in bioscience company expansions in 2020

Life sciences companies from around the state, nation and world announced expansions in 2020 that will bring nearly $2 billion in investment and more than 3,500 new jobs to North Carolina.

At least 16 companies announced expansions that will create construction jobs and then bioscience jobs in communities throughout the state including Clayton, Durham, Greenville, Maxton, Morrisville, Research Triangle Park and Sanford.

“It’s great to see this recognition for the amazing economic development ecosystem that is helping North Carolina achieve global leadership in so many ways,” said Bill Bullock, senior vice president of statewide operations and economic development for the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. “Our world-class academic base, our long-term commitment to workforce development, our magnetic business climate are proving to be increasingly attractive to companies choosing to make major investments in relocation and expansion.”

Here are the major life sciences projects announced in 2020:

  • Global pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company announced plans to build its first North Carolina manufacturing facility in Research Triangle Park, investing $474 million and creating 462 new jobs. Lilly officials said they chose North Carolina over competing sites in Indianapolis and Philadelphia, primarily because of the state’s workforce capabilities.
  • Audentes Therapeutics, a San Francisco gene therapy company that was purchased in January 2020 by Tokyo-based Astellas Pharma, announced it would establish a $109.4 million, 209-employee gene therapy production facility in Sanford. The company chose to join North Carolina’s burgeoning gene therapy ecosystem after also considering its home state of California, as well as Massachusetts and Colorado.
  • GreenLight Biosciences, a Boston company that produces RNA-based solutions for health care and sustainable agriculture, planned to double the size of its 30-employee Research Triangle Park plant and data science operation over the next two years.
  • FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies U.S.A. broke ground on a $54 million, 31,778-square-foot expansion of its biomanufacturing facilities in Morrisville as part of a $90 million Fujifilm Corp. investment to meet growing customer demand for biopharmaceuticals.
  • California-based healthcare company GRAIL said it would invest $103 million and create nearly 400 new jobs over the next four years in Research Triangle Park. The company, created in 2015, is developing a “liquid biopsy” blood test for early detection of cancer. 
  • Grifols, a global biotherapeutics company with more than 2,000 employees in North Carolina, announced it would add 300 more to its Clayton workforce as part of a $351.6 million expansion of its blood plasma operations there. The project is the latest of several expansions that are making the Clayton site one of the world’s largest manufacturing plants for plasma-derived medicines. 
  • UK-based MedPharm Ltd., which completed a $4 million expansion in Research Triangle Park in December 2019, announced an expansion of its manufacturing capacity at a nearby site in Durham. The contract developer of topical and transdermal pharmaceutical products did not disclose the amount of the investment or the anticipated number of jobs to be created.
  • bioMASON, which enlists bacteria to create biocement-based construction materials without the need for energy-consuming kilns, expanded into a new 30,000-square-foot headquarters space in Research Triangle Park and planned to increase its headcount by 50 percent to over 75 employees by the end of 2020.
  • A young Boston-area gene therapy company, Beam Therapeutics, announced plans to build an $83 million biomanufacturing facility in Durham. The 200,000-square-foot facility could employ more than 200 people over five years.
  • UPL, a multinational agriculture company based in India, opened a global research-and-development hub in Research Triangle Park to develop products for sustainable agriculture in partnership with collaborating companies. The hub, called the OpenAg Center, will hire about 30 scientists and technicians over the next year at its 45,000-square-foot facility.
  • Merck’s Maurice R. Hilleman Center for Vaccine Manufacturing in Durham disclosed plans to hire 100 more employees over the next few years as it builds a new facility to increase production of a bladder cancer drug.
  • BioAgilytix, which provides contract bioanalytical testing for other companies’ large-molecule drug candidates, said it would add 878 new employees with a $61.5 million investment in its global headquarters in Durham.
  • KBI Biopharma, a contract drug development and manufacturing company with operations in Durham, announced a new manufacturing facility near Research Triangle Park that will employ more than 200 people in operations and quality assurance. KBI will co-invest $150 million in the 140,000-square-foot facility in collaboration with an undisclosed pharmaceutical client to support manufacturing of the client’s therapeutic proteins.
  • Huvepharma, a global pharmaceutical company that develops and manufactures human- and animal-health products, announced a $1.9 million expansion of its poultry vaccines plant in Maxton, in rural Scotland County, that will add 10 jobs.
  • Thermo Fisher Scientific, a global life science services company with major operations in North Carolina, unveiled plans to add 500 new jobs in Greenville over the next two years in a $500 million expansion of its sterile drug product development and commercial manufacturing of critical medicines, therapies and vaccines.
  • Dallas-based Taysha Gene Therapies announced plans to invest $75 million in a 150,000-square-foot gene therapy manufacturing facility in Durham County that will employ more than 200 people by the end of 2023. 
Barry Teater, NCBiotech Writer
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