Boehringer Ingelheim unloads vet plant in Iowa to contract manufacturer

Boehringer Ingelheim, which is in the midst of a cost-cutting program, has unloaded yet another plant, this time a vet med facility in Iowa that has been slated for closure for some years. New Zealand's Argenta, which does vet med contract work, has bought the facility as part of its expansion plans but will employ far fewer than the 100 that work for Boehringer.

Argenta said last week that it had concluded its deal to buy the 145,312-square-foot (13,500-square-meter) plant in Fort Dodge from Vetmedica. The companies kept terms of the deal under wraps, but according to The Messenger, Argenta is getting a $500,000 state loan and a $100,000 loan from the Fort Dodge city government for its deal, which includes investing $7.4 million into the facility. Vetmedica will manufacture some products there until the end of the year.

"The purchase of the Riverside property continues our growth strategy in the U.S. as well as New Zealand," Doug Cleverly, managing director and co-founder of Argenta, said in a statement. The company, which does contract drug development and manufacturing for animal health companies, was founded in 2006 and in 2008 bought New Jersey-based clinical contract research provider AlcheraBio.

The company will only employ about 10 people initially but has said it expects that number to grow to 30 in three years, The Messenger reports. That, however, is far fewer than the 100 that Boehringer employed at one time.

Boehringer said back in 2011 that the plant would be closed as it moved production to other facilities. The plant was part of Wyeth's Fort Dodge Animal Health operation. Wyeth and Pfizer ($PFE) were forced to sell off some of those assets as part of their 2009 merger. About 90% of the work the plant did was for Pfizer, however, before Pfizer pulled that work several years ago and eventually spun off its animal health company into Zoetis ($ZTS).

Vetmedica has other manufacturing operations in the area and is investing about $60 million into another plant it has in Fort Dodge, as well as a research facility in Ames, Iowa.

Boehringer, which has been downsizing as part of an effort to boost profits, has closed other human drug manufacturing facilities in the past couple of years, finding buyers for the facilities but without jobs materializing from those deals. It shuttered its mammoth sterile manufacturing facility in Bedford, OH, at the end of 2013, laying off 1,100 workers. The plant was acquired last year by Hikma, which has stripped out good equipment and left the plant dormant. Last year Boehringer sold an API plant in Petersburg, VA, to Chinese drugmaker UniTao Pharmaceuticals. Initially, UniTao said it would keep the 240 employees at the plant, but in March it said it would have to idle the facility because of changes in the market.

- here's the release
- read the Messenger story (sub. req.)