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Government contracts could immunize Holly Springs vaccine plant against closure

Posted April 22, 2014

— Plans for pharmaceutical giants Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline and Eli Lilly to swap business lines may have shaken up the stock market Tuesday, but work at a Novartis flu vaccine plant in Holly Springs hummed along, and local officials said they expect it to remain that way.

Novartis plans to sell its vaccine business to GSK and its animal health division to Lilly, buy GSK's cancer-drug business and form a consumer health care joint venture with GSK. Although the Holly Springs plant isn't part of the GSK deal, Novartis officials said the company is looking for a buyer for it.

Mayor Dick Sears says Novartis executives called him Tuesday morning and told him of the potential plant sale, but he wasn't concerned by the news.

"I don't think there' s any possibility that plant will disappear. It may change names; it may not," Sears said.

The plant has long-term contracts with the government to produce flu vaccines, he said, so he doesn't expect any major shake-up.

Holly Springs, Wake County and the state offered Novartis more than $40 million in incentives to build the vaccine plant, which opened five years ago and now employs 550.

Sears said the local investment has been worth every penny.

"Our permits are up, everything is up from last year," he said. "Everything is happy as a lark, and we want to keep it that way."

Other businesses have flocked to the bedroom community since the plant opened, and it now ranks among the fastest-growing towns in North Carolina. Commercial tax revenue accounts for 21 percent of Holly Springs' tax base, up from only 10 percent five years ago.

My Way Tavern opened its doors in downtown Holly Springs not too long after Novartis started operations nearby.

"It's been a nice influx as far as nighttime goes," owner Andrew Stafford said. "They would bring a lot of people in corporate-wise and put them up at hotels and bounce them off of me at night."

A Novartis spokesman said the bidding process for the vaccine plant could take from nine to 19 months to complete.


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  • whatelseisnew Apr 23, 2014

    "The plant has long-term contracts with the government to produce flu vaccines, he said, so he doesn't expect any major shake-up."

    Ah yes another grand government scam. Flu vaccines.

  • Joanne Batjer Apr 23, 2014
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    worked there before start-up.. most mismanaged place i have ever worked

  • Betty Russell Apr 23, 2014
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    View quoted thread

    how true, people seem to forget that the government has no money. It is ALL TAXPAYER funded....

  • Charlie Watkins Apr 23, 2014
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    Nothing near as bad as the Global Transpark which is still draining money from the taxpayer.

  • mec Apr 23, 2014

    the facility won "facility of the year" a couple years back, and is one of the most advanced in the world. it will be decades before it gets shut down. it may not always make flu-vax, but it will not be closed.

  • Brian Lancaster Apr 23, 2014
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    There is a Government backed Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) at the Novartis plant doing special research. They heavily rely on the plant to test the manufacturing processes to make these new 'things'.

    Since the government has an interest in this facility, I highly doubt it goes anywhere anytime soon!

  • Alex25 Apr 23, 2014

    A Govt contract is using other people's money. Nothing is free .......

  • uBnice Apr 23, 2014

    So, I guess this type of government/tax payer handout is fine?

    What would have happened if Holly Springs, Wake County and the state did not offer Novartis more than $40 million in incentives to build the plant?! That equates to giving Novartis $73,000 per worker.

    Why did a private company need taxpayer dollars?!