Mere days after the federal government announced $37.5 million in funding to help a pharmaceutical company expand its footprint in the Maritimes, a group is already putting their heads together to see how the region can best benefit from the announcement.
On March 6, a private roundtable discussion was held at the West Hants location of BioVectra Inc. The meeting featured top level company executives, Bernadette Jordan, the federal minister of rural economic development, local politicians and representatives of various educational institutes and economic development agencies.
The meeting was an important one said Heather Delage, the general manager for BioVectra’s West Hants location, as it provided stakeholders with “more information about what we’re doing and start the dialogue in terms of how to maximize the benefits, the collaborations that will come out of the Strategic Innovation Fund award.”
She said the meeting featured “balanced discussion and idea generation” and they pulled together a cross-functional team to look at all of the ideas and the challenges and opportunities “toward maximizing benefits and success of not only this program but supporting the establishment of high tech manufacturing operations like ours in this region.”
The rural economic development minister said she was also pleased with how well the roundtable discussions went.
“We put together some of the community leaders because they’re going to be hiring over 110 people at this plant in the next two to three years and with that comes a number of different challenges, in terms of workforce, in terms of housing, and we want to make sure that whenever a company grows, that they grow in the right direction so it’s sustainable,” said Jordan.
“It’s not just about putting money in and investing and building something, it’s about keeping it going for the long term,” Jordan continued.
She said she will take this working group format to other areas to see if it can be replicated and work for other communities.
What it means for Hants/Kings
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited BioVectra’s P.E.I. headquarters on March 4 to announce the $37.5 million contribution to BioVectra Inc. to allow the company to embark on a five-year expansion of its operations in Charlottetown and Hants County.
The funding, through the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF), will be put towards the company’s $144 million expansion plans. A total of 150 new jobs will be created — 40 in Charlottetown and 110 in West Hants.
The expansion plans at the Ivey Lane location in Nova Scotia have already begun, as has the initial search for more employees, Delage said.
“We’ve actually been working on this ahead of the announcement, investing in an expanded footprint at the facility,” said Delage. “We’re constructing an additional 10,000 square feet onto our existing building at our Windsor site. We will require 30 of those positions over the course of 2019 and we are actively hiring now.”
The biopharmaceutical firm has 17 positions already posted on its website specific to the Nova Scotia site.
“The other 80 positions that are part of this project will be required over 2020 and 2021,” said Delage.
“Beyond the full-time jobs, there are other provisions inside the innovation fund award for us to utilize and connect into a pool of 25 students every year for five years,” she added. “So there will be increased student opportunities, collaborations with all of the academic institutions in Nova Scotia, and other mechanisms to foster innovation and our access to innovation and talent in the field where we operate.”
These won’t just be summer positions. Delage said they will continue to access co-op programs and internships to draw some of the brightest local students.
The existing site is 50,000 square feet. By 2022, that footprint will be 60,000 square feet and a separate, 20,000 square foot building, will also be constructed.
“The investment that the federal government has made into our company will allow us to accelerate our growth plans. We are prepared for this,” said Delage. “We have an existing reputation in the industry for high-quality supply of products and this is going to allow us to expand those relationships, generate new technology around biologics manufacturing, which is an exciting and an important part of the overall pharmaceutical industry.”
Delage said the community will benefit from the expansion and expertise that will be drawn to the area.
“I think there will be a new energy that comes from the BioVectra family continuing to expand. There will be over 150 people at this site,” said Delage.
“We will have new families moving into the community. We will have people connecting into other workplaces, bringing new ideas, bringing innovation, participating in the community,” she said.
The jobs will bring with them an economic boost for the region, she noted.
“We want our people to be successful, to flourish, to have roles in the community, to have their spouses and friends and family also contributing. It will grow from there. There will be tremendous spin-off benefits.”
- 110 jobs coming to Windsor biochemical plant
- Trudeau announces $37.5 million to help BioVectra expand in P.E.I., Nova Scotia
- BioVectra receives $5 million loan from ACOA to expand operations
- Charlottetown’s BioVectra setting up in Windsor
Windsor mayor reacts to BioVectra news
Windsor Mayor Anna Allen said she was thrilled with the news that BioVectra would be expanding its operations in Windsor.
She was one of approximately two dozen people who attended a recent roundtable meeting at BioVectra, during which the company’s needs were spelled out in detail.
“We’re going to work together and do the best we can to accommodate them,” she said.
Allen said this isn’t just a Windsor-West Hants story, as many of the families may choose to settle in Kings County or HRM.
“They’re be looking for schools, daycare, recreation, and we will probably need to look at expanding some of those services,” she said.
“It’s an amazing story and it hasn’t happened in a long time in this area,” she added.
“More people means our local businesses will benefit greatly from this, they may have to expand,” she added. “There are rippling affects when you have something like this happen.”