Greer Labs will stay in Lenoir

Expansion prompted regional search for HQ site
Sep. 24, 2013 @ 08:34 AM

Caldwell County will hang on to the headquarters of a homegrown pharmaceutical company that is poised to become one of the top dozen employers in the county.

Greer Laboratories announced Monday that its new headquarters will be in the Expo building off U.S. 321 adjacent to Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corp., a short distance from its current home along Nuway Circle.

Greer, which currently has 279 employees in Caldwell County, previously announced expansion plans calling for $30 million in new investment and up to 125 new jobs over two years.

But while Greer was founded in Lenoir in 1904, it was not certain that the company would keep its headquarters here as it expanded. About 75 current jobs and 25 of the projected new jobs are associated with the headquarters, officials said in August.

In fact, the Expo building, owned by Broyhill Asset Management, is the only one in the area that suits Greer’s needs, said David P. Burney, Greer’s chief operating officer. Several sites in the Hickory area were among the other places considered.

In August, Greer director of facilities management Jim Lucier said, “We have turned over every rock probably within 50 miles of this place.”

The factors that turned the decision in Lenoir’s favor were the company’s long history here; the enthusiasm and sense of urgency that the EDC, local officials and Hunt Broyhill showed about keeping Greer; a desire not to uproot current employees; and the success Greer has had recruiting within Caldwell County, Burney said.

Greer’s work focuses on the development of allergy immunotherapy products and services for humans and animals. The company is owned by Ares Life Sciences, a health care-centered investment group based in Switzerland.

Deborah Murray, executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission, was celebratory Monday and enthusiastic about what Greer’s decision means for the local economy.

“Greer Laboratories founder William White would have been so proud to see the company he began in Lenoir in 1904 now establish its world-class corporate headquarters prominently on 321,” Murray said. “What a statement this makes about Greer and Caldwell County.”

The announcement builds upon Caldwell County’s base of high-tech manufacturing businesses, Murray said. The county is fast becoming one of the largest biotech/pharmaceutical clusters in the state west of the Research Triangle.

The most visible evidence of that is that Greer’s current building and the Expo building are directly across U.S. 321 from the former headquarters of Broyhill Furniture Industries, which is being renovated to become the new headquarters for Exela Pharma Sciences, another pharmaceutical company.

Burney said that the proximity of another rapidly growing pharmaceutical company was not a factor – the two companies do not compete – and added, “It’s certainly not a negative.”

Greer has signed a long-term lease for the Expo building and has architectural renderings for extensive interior and exterior renovations, Burney said.

Though Greer is not buying the Expo building, Burney said, “That will be, for all intents and purposes, our permanent home.”

The company also intends to make improvements at the Nuway Circle building, where it will continue manufacturing operations.

Burney said that the company plans to announce more details about its expansion later.

Murray said Greer’s announcement is another realization of the county’s expanding manufacturing potential.

“Caldwell County continues to address diversification in its manufacturing community,” Murray said. “And with a company such as Greer, we are now reaching beyond the horizon for 22nd-century manufacturing and employment opportunities.”

Hunt Broyhill, manager of Broyhill Asset Management, said in the EDC's press release that he is pleased to have a building that will meet the company’s needs. “Greer has been a valued, home-grown entrepreneurial venture as well as a great corporate citizen. We are happy to have been able to facilitate an arrangement that makes keeping their headquarters in Caldwell County a reality.”

The Caldwell County Board of Commissioners voted Aug. 5 to approve an incentives package for Greer consisting of a local jobs incentive of $2,000 per new job created, a corporate headquarters retention incentive of $2,000 per job that would apply to 75 current corporate jobs and the 25 new corporate jobs, and a 75 percent tax grant, which would give the company back 75 percent of the taxes it pays on the value its $30 million investment adds to its property.

Greer will apply for incentives from Lenoir as well.