Amgen splashes $550M and plans to hire hundreds in Tarheel State manufacturing push

Add Amgen to the growing list of biopharma companies taking their business to North Carolina.

The California-based biotech has revealed that it will invest $550 million in a new drug substance manufacturing plant in Holly Springs, N.C., where it will hire hundreds of workers.

If that modest-sized town, 20 miles south of Raleigh, rings a bell, it might be because five months ago, Fujifilm made waves when it unveiled plans to build a massive $2 billion plant there, billed as the largest end-to-end biopharmaceutical manufacturing facility in North America.

So why Holly Springs (pop. 35,000)?

Details on the deal, revealed in a statement from North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, provide a clue. Helping attract Amgen were grants of $12.6 million from the state and $22.8 million from local governments. Additionally, there’s a sweetener which could pay Amgen up to $11.6 million over the next 12 years based on a formula that takes into account the new tax revenues generated by the jobs Amgen brings.

The Amgen plant will employ 355 people with an average annual salary of $119,510. In Wake County, where Holly Springs is located, the average wage is $63,966.  

“It’s exciting to see the industry where I spent much of my career become such a vital economic engine for our state,” North Carolina commerce secretary Machelle Baker Sanders, a former executive at Biogen and Purdue Pharma, said in a statement.

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Amgen chose Holly Springs over Houston and with the move joins many other biopharma giants with a presence in the state, including Pfizer, Merck and GlaxoSmithKline.

The expansion is part of Amgen’s $1 billion effort to grow its manufacturing capacity. The company revealed the first phase of the project in June with a $365 million investment in a packaging plant in New Albany, Ohio, due to come online in 2024.

The plant in Holly Springs will support traditional stainless steel manufacturing and next-generation single-use technologies, giving the site the flexibility to produce multiple products, the company said. The approach, dubbed by Amgen as “FleXBatch manufacturing,” will make the plant more efficient, requiring a smaller physical footprint than a traditional factory.

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Construction is planned to begin in December of this year and be complete in 2024.