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Staley Road facility gets OK for tax incentive package
By Michael J. Billoni
An approval by the Erie County Industrial Development Agency’s (ECIDA) Board of Directors on Wednesday for a tax incentive package presented by Grand Island’s Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. should result in the life sciences company proceeding with plans to add an $85 million, 69,000-square-foot expansion to its research, development and manufacturing facility at 3175 Staley Road. Thermo Fisher Scientific plays a key role in manufacturing products for pharmaceutical companies globally to use for COVID-19 vaccines.
In its application to the ECIDA, Thermo Fisher Scientific is seeking exemptions from sales and real property taxes for the two-story expansion to the northeast corner of its existing 300,000-square-foot building. The additional space will be used for the manufacture of Animal Origin Free (AOF) liquid media products that will allow it to “meet customer demand,” including the manufacturing by pharmaceutical companies of the vaccines for COVID-19, AIDs, cancer and other diseases. The company pledges to create 60 jobs through this expansion.
This will mark the second straight month ECIDA’s 19 board members will consider a Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. proposal. Last month it approved tax breaks totaling $2.8 million for a Thermo Fisher expansion of 50,000 square feet to its West R&D Center on Staley Road with a price tag of $90.2 million and the promise of 60 additional jobs. That project is underway and is slated to be completed by December 2022. These projects will bring the company’s workforce to over 1,000, with 286 administrative positions located in the former Canon Design headquarters at 1870 Whitehaven Road that it moved into in 2019. The impressive building, which faces the I-190, has a “Help Wanted” sign posted on its glass front.
The company’s explanation of why the ECIDA’s financial assistance is necessary said it will allow them to “serve our existing customers’ increasing demand for its products as well as compete in the expanding life sciences industry” to gain additional customers. It also stated the opportunity exists to build this expansion at its Miami or Greenville, South Carolina facilities, “where government agencies have provided assistance for similar projects.”
If it is unable to obtain financial assistance from the ECIDA, the company stated in its application: “If the project moves out of Grand Island, the county will lose the opportunity for job creation and its economic impacts.”
Local Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. officials, including its legal counsel from Hodgson Russ LLP, have not responded to numerous requests for comment from The Island Dispatch.
Charlotte A. McCormick, corporate communications/public relations for Thermal Fisher Scientific Inc., said they would speak after Wednesday’s vote, of which 10 positive votes are needed to pass. Speaking from its corporate headquarters in Waltham, Massachusetts, McCormick told The Island Dispatch on Wednesday: “We have significant involvement, not just at the Grand Island site, but globally, in terms of cell cultured media and other products we are supplying to pharmaceutical companies to help them make their vaccines. We are involved in the production of products used in over 300 vaccines, therapies and medications.”
She also provided a statement from Marc N. Casper, chairman, president and CEO of the publicly traded company with more than 75,000 employees globally and annual revenues exceeding $25 billion: “We are quite proud in what we are able to accomplish in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus. This was something Thermo Fisher Scientific was built for and ready for and when it occurred, we responded. Our employees globally are proud to be a part of this and having a role in mitigating this pandemic.”
According to its website, Thermo Fisher is at the heart of the global response to COVID-19 and is working with government agencies and researchers to ensure priority access to instruments, consumables, safety supplies and other products to address the outbreak–particularly in analysis of the virus, diagnosis and personal protection. Well before the pandemic, Thermo Fisher committed more than $800 million of investments to transform its drug substance, drug product and clinical supply capabilities that deliver on the increasing need for scalability, flexibility and expertise. These global investments have enabled its clients to respond rapidly in the battle against COVID-19.
The Grand Island Town Board approved Thermo Fisher’s site plan for expansion of this project at its Sept. 21, 2020, meeting and a height variance was approved by the Planning Board at its Dec. 21 meeting. “This project is good to go,” said Town Engineer Robert H. Westfall, P.E.
The ECIDA held a virtual public hearing about this application on Jan. 19. After a Thermal Fisher representative briefly outlined the project, it was open to public comment, of which there was none.
This project will have 54,000 square feet dedicated to manufacturing and 14,600 square feet for office and warehouse space. Of the $85 million, $34.2 million will be used to build the two-story structure, $36 million in equipment and $14.8 million in soft costs, such as engineering, architecture fees, legal costs, etc. The expansion is expected to begin this summer with a completion date of spring 2023.
Prior to 1962, when Grand Island Biological Co. (GIBCO) began, the Staley Road site was a horse farm. In 2014, Thermo Fisher, then known as Life Technologies, purchased GIBCO.