A sprawling pharmaceutical manufacturing campus will be built in Middletown, introducing a new economic engine to one of Delaware's fastest-growing towns.
Middletown Town Council approved plans for STA Pharmaceutical USA's roughly 2.2-million-square-foot campus Monday. The company is a subsidiary of WuXi AppTec, a Chinese-based company that provides research and development and manufacturing services for clients such as AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Roche.
Mike Riemann, a civil engineer for the project from Becker Morgan Group, said the first phase of construction will lead to 479 jobs. The company has said when fully developed the campus could employ around 1,000 people. It will serve as STA Pharmaceutical's U.S. headquarters.
The approval at Monday's Town Council meeting was something of a formality as representatives from the state, Middletown and STA had been meeting regularly to discuss the plans. Last June, the state agreed to give the company $19 million in taxpayer-funded grants for the facility.
"We can't wait to get this thing rolling," Middletown Mayor Kenneth Branner Jr. said.
The campus will be located on Industrial Drive at Merrimac Avenue just south of Middletown Warwick Road, one of Middletown's main drags of shops and restaurants. It will be across from an Amazon fulfillment center and next to the recently opened headquarters for Breakthru Beverage.
The centerpiece of the first phase of construction is a two-story drug product manufacturing facility. The first phase will also include an administrative building, a three-story laboratory and office building and a central utility building. The construction will be concentrated on the west side of the property.
Future phases moving east will be focused around drug substance manufacturing facilities, which produce substances that become ingredients in drug production. Walkways will connect the entirety of the property.
"The idea behind the design of this was to create kind of a campus feel," said Mike Riemann, a civil engineer for the project from Becker Morgan Group.
The company previously said the facility will open in 2024 and about 500 full-time positions will be added by 2026. Jobs at the site will include manufacturing operators, lab technicians, quality assurance and quality control staff, scientists and management, administrative and warehouse support staff.
WuXi AppTec did not respond to questions about the timing of future phases or the wages of each role.
The $19 million taxpayer-funded grant is the largest approved by the state since 2011 when Bloom Energy was given $16.5 million for its Newark facility, according to the Delaware Business Times. It's more than three times as much as Amazon received for its Boxwood Road mega-warehouse, which surpassed 3,000 full-time employees in its first six months.
The grant includes $3.25 million tied to the creation of 479 jobs by 2026, $15.3 million that will go toward construction costs and $500,000 for job training.
The money comes from Delaware's Strategic Fund, a pool of state money meant to attract businesses and generate jobs in the First State.
Grant applicants are brought forward by the Delaware Prosperity Partnership, a public-private partnership that isn't subject to any public hearings or disclosure. Its applicants are rarely, if ever, rejected by the Council on Development Finance, another body in charge of disseminating money from the Delaware Strategic Fund.
The fund had an allocation of $35 million for fiscal year 2022.
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STA currently provides pharmaceutical development and manufacturing to more than 470 worldwide partners. The Middletown site will be the company's second in the U.S., joining a smaller research and development lab and manufacturing plant that opened in San Diego, California in 2016.
Middletown's population increased by more than 20% from 2010 to 2020, coinciding with a housing building boom that's taken hundreds of acres of farmland in and around the town.
Job growth hasn't exactly matched. According to a study for the Southern New Castle County master plan, about 8 in 10 residents commute to jobs outside the area. The majority of them cross the canal to work in the northern half of the county.
On the flip side, about 65% of the jobs in southern New Castle County are filled by people living outside the area.
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This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: STA Pharmaceutical receives approval for Middletown, Delaware manufacturing campus