German syringe maker expanding Wilson plant, aided by incentives

 In January 2018

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Fresenius Kabi’s plan to add 445 jobs in Wilson is part of $3 billion in investments announced in the last two years in a life-sciences manufacturing cluster spanning four counties, says Jennifer Lantz, executive director of Wilson Economic Development Council.

The German drugmaker came to Wilson two years ago when it acquired Becton Dickinson’s prescription-drug business. Fresenius will invest as much as $150 million over five years in an expansion of the site, which employs about 100 workers.

Fresenius plans to expand the number of products it makes in pre-filled syringes, which are more efficient and easier to use than traditional syringes and deliver more precise doses. The market for pre-filled syringes is expected to more than double from $3 billion in 2013 to $6.6 billion by 2020, according to a report from researcher Smithers Rapra.

“It was a natural extension of existing business,” says Fresenius spokesman Matt Kuhn. Over the last year, the company that employs more than 3,000 workers in the U.S. and 35,000 worldwide also has announced expansions at its other U.S. sites in Illinois and New York. The Wilson plant has performed well, prompting the decision to expand, Kuhn says. Access to water at a competitive rate — important for the sterile solutions made at the plant — also was a factor. The state is offering incentives of as much as $7.2 million if the company meets hiring and investment goals.

It’s one of the largest jobs announcements in recent years in Wilson County, where unemployment rates have remained among the highest in the state. Adding 445 jobs in the life-sciences industry “is tremendous,” Lantz says, with most pharmaceutical expansions bringing 100-200 jobs. The average annual salary for the new jobs will be $60,000, including benefits.

Wilson’s roots in biotech manufacturing started in 1982, when Merck opened a plant. By the late 1980s, the plant employed about 250 workers. Today, about 1,100 people work in the life-sciences industry at local plants run by Merck, Fresenius, Novartis and Purdue Pharma.

Most of the state’s life-sciences manufacturing jobs are located in Johnston, Nash, Pitt and Wilson counties. The largest project underway is Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk’s $1.8 billion expansion of its diabetes-products plant in Johnston County. Last spring, Patheon, which was acquired by Thermo Fisher Scientific in August, completed a $26 million expansion at its Greenville manufacturing site.

Wilson’s location along U.S. 264 between Greenville and Raleigh creates a labor pool of more of 175,000, Lantz says, compared with the county’s population of about 81,000.

The company also looked at Chicago and New York for the expansion. Despite North Carolina’s low cost of living and other advantages, Wilson wasn’t a shoo-in. “It’s not the Old South anymore,” Lantz says. “It’s rare that someone isn’t analyzing every single cost that goes into
a facility.”


KINSTON — Spirit AeroSystems will invest $55.7 million over five years in an expansion at Global TransPark, where the Wichita, Kan.-based aircraft-parts manufacturer employs about 850 workers. No new jobs are expected.

KINSTON — Claire de Marcellus Paris was named chief medical officer of UNC Lenoir Health Care. She was previously a physician
at Appalachian Regional Medical Associates in Banner Elk. Chapel Hill-based UNC Health Care assumed management of the 261-bed hospital in 2016.

WILMINGTON — United Airlines will add daily nonstop routes to Chicago and Washington, D.C., beginning April 9. Wilmington International is the state’s fifth-largest airport with about 820,000 passengers a year.

WILMINGTON — Poteat Hospitality Associates of Laurinburg plans a 125-unit Aloft Hotel next to the riverfront Coastline Convention Center. Its opening is expected in 2019. Nearby, an Embassy Suites with 186 rooms is expected to open this month.

SOUTHPORT — Dosher Memorial Hospital named Brad Hilaman chief medical officer, a new position. He is a gynecologist and is the medical director of the 36-bed hospital’s wound care center.

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