burgeoning life-sciences cluster in Cobb County, Ga., grew even larger in recent months as two rapidly expanding bio-medical companies moved into new addresses just north of Atlanta.
Wilmington, N.C.-based Osmotica Pharmaceutical Corp. opened its $20-million plant on Sawyer Road in Marietta, while MiMedx Group Inc. relocated its corporate headquarters from neighboring Kennesaw to Sandy Plains Road in Marietta in a move that doubles its space and adds 100 employees.
The twin expansion projects join PointClear Solutions (75 jobs) and Fresenius Medical Care (120 jobs) as recent investments into larger life-science operations in Cobb.
The Osmotica deal, originally announced in 2011, creates 156 jobs over five years in a facility that housed manufacturing and office space on the former campus of Solvay Pharmaceuticals, which moved its headquarters to Chicago after Solvay's acquisition by Abbott Laboratories in 2010. The headquarters portion of the Marietta campus was acquired early this year by WellStar Health System for its own HQ.
A company that specializes in neurology-based drug therapies and innovative drug delivery technologies used in the treatment of Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis patients, Osmotica is a multinational firm with R&D operations in Budapest, Hungary, and Buenos Aires, Argentina. It also makes the well-known Allegra-D 24-hour antihistamine and decongestant licensed to Sanofi-Aventis.
Tim Albury, CFO of Osmotica, says, "We were attracted to the site in Marietta by a combination of the state incentives and the aspects of the site itself and the characteristics it offered. It was an ideal site for a company in our stage of rapid growth."
Assistance came from the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Georgia Quick Start, City of Marietta, Cobb Chamber of Commerce, Cobb County Office of Economic Development and Electric Cities of Georgia. Also, Marietta-based CobbWorks, a nonprofit organization that focuses on work-force development and recruitment, is helping Osmotica recruit and train workers for the new plant.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal personally intervened to help Osmotica select Marietta, said former Osmotica CEO Forrest Waldon, whose own professional career began in North Georgia in the 1980s.
"Being located near an airport like Hartsfield-Jackson is very important."
Tim Albury, CFO, Osmotica
The company's transition to a fully integrated business model "required our own manufacturing and our own analytical capacity," says Albury. "This site came to us at the right time, and it happened to be at the right price."
Albury notes that Osmotica considered locations in New York, Philadelphia and North Carolina for the project, but the site in Marietta represented "a unique combination of variables, especially when you consider the type of facility that was available and the type of employees that were available then too."
Osmotica was able to hire many of the workers who had been laid off by the previous occupant of the plant, adds Albury. "From the standpoint of access to talent, Cobb County stood out," he says. "We purchased an existing pharmaceutical facility that was largely performing similar functions. We could recruit from that same talent pool."
Osmotica also likes the logistics of the location. "The Atlanta airport is very strategic to us," Albury says. "Our industry is scattered around the country and the world. Being located near an airport like Hartsfield-Jackson is very important. We are an international company. Our largest research center is located in Buenos Aires. We have direct flights from Buenos Aires to Atlanta, and we also have direct flight access to our headquarters in Wilmington."
Albury says he appreciates that "Gov. Deal was intimately involved in our deal. He played a role in talking directly with our CEO. That is important evidence of commitment when the governor is giving you his mobile phone number."
Another Vote for Talent
Bill Taylor, president and chief operating officer of MiMedx, says his firm's $1.8-million investment into an existing facility in the West Oak Business Park near Highway 5 in Marietta doubles its space to 80,000 sq. ft. (7,432 sq. m.) and doubles its work force. The new jobs will pay between $40,000 and $150,000 a year.
"Together with our facility in Kennesaw, we will have 100,000 sq. ft. [9,290 sq. m.] total in Cobb County," says Taylor. "We have grown from 48 to almost 200 people in the company very quickly. In our new facility, we will have 140 to 150 people total when we move in, which will be done in two stages this summer."
Taylor explains that MiMedx — a supplier of amniotic tissue used in wound care — "wanted to be within a five-mile radius of where we are now in Kennesaw. We looked for a suitable building within that radius and we found one that was the right size. It also gave us the ability to build a clean room there."
The Edson Group and Transwestern acted as brokers on the leasing of the property that formerly served as the corporate headquarters of AkzoNobel company Eka Chemicals. HUB Properties is the landlord.
"Cobb County was very helpful. In fact, we are still working with them," notes Taylor. "The City of Marietta has been very helpful in permitting. We are now in discussions with the county on a relocation and retention grant."
"The whole metro area has a lot more life-science companies than we generally get credit for."
— Bill Taylor, president and COO, MiMedx, on Greater Atlanta
Taylor adds, "We have been able to attract some great employees, particularly in our processing area. We recruit from Chattahoochee Tech. They have a scrub program. The north side of Atlanta has a lot of great talent within a reasonable drive of this area."
The groundwork for the expansion was laid "when we came in and did a turnaround and startup a couple of years ago with small offices in Marietta and Tampa," says Taylor. "We looked at both cities. We could have run this business out of either location. We received proposals from both areas. We decided to keep the main business here in the metro Atlanta area after getting a grant from the State of Georgia in 2010."
A regenerative bio-materials company, MiMedx merged with another Atlanta area company — Surgical Biologics — in 2011. "The whole metro area has a lot more life-science companies than we generally get credit for," adds Taylor.