Biotech firm to build massive plant in central NC; Google Cloud comes to Durham

Job numbers are on the rise as global companies announce major investments in the heart of North Carolina

N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper, left, elbow bumps with Martin Meeson, the CEO of Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, after it was announced that Fujifilm Diosynth will build a new vaccine manufacturing facility in Holly Springs, N.C., Thursday, March 18, 2021. (Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer via AP)

HOLLY SPRINGS — A subsidiary of Japanese conglomerate Fujifilm Holdings Corp. said Thursday that it will open a massive biopharmaceutical manufacturing plant in central North Carolina in 2025, ultimately creating 725 new jobs. 

Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies and government officials announced the overall $2 billion project in Holly Springs, just south of Raleigh, for what’s being billed as the largest end-to-end biopharmaceutical manufacturing facility in North America. The company manufactures drugs and vaccines for other pharmaceutical companies.

“Today’s decision shows once again that North Carolina is a world-class location for the most innovative biotech companies in the industry,” said Governor Cooper. “Since Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies already operates a facility in our state, they have complete confidence this new plant will succeed as well, thanks to North Carolina’s skilled workers, our commitment to workforce training, and the growing strength of our life science industrial cluster.”

Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, which has a campus in nearby Research Triangle Park and employs more than 600 people, chose the Wake County site over building the plant in Texas, according to the state Commerce Department. The company already has locations in College Station, Texas, the United Kingdom and Denmark. 

“We are delighted to expand our footprint here in North Carolina as we fulfill our mission to help our customers accelerate development and supply of high-quality medicines to patients,” Fujifilm Holdings president Kenji Sukeno said in a news release from Gov. Roy Cooper’s office. Cooper held an in-person project announcement in Holly Springs. 

The company brings over thirty years of experience to the development and manufacturing of life-saving products, such as recombinant proteins, viral vaccines, viral vectors, monoclonal antibodies, and other large molecules and medical countermeasures. The company offers a comprehensive list of services from cell line development, using its proprietary pAVEway™ microbial and ApolloX™ cell line systems, to process development, analytical development, and clinical and FDA-approved commercial manufacturing.

The company’s North Carolina site has been in operation since 1996. The campus has expanded since its inception to include three buildings that house the company’s Process Development and Analytical Laboratories, cGMP Manufacturing Facility, and Administration. The site has more than 600 employees today.

Fujifilm could receive a maximum of $33.5 million in state grants and training as part of the deal, according to information presented at a meeting Thursday of state officials that approve economic incentive proposals. Almost $20 million of the package would be contingent on the company reaching job creation and investment thresholds. Local governments also have agreed to chip in tens of millions of dollars in additional incentives.

The new plant jobs would arrive between 2024 and 2028. The minimum average wage for the new positions, which would include engineers, scientists, manufacturing personnel, is almost $100,000, according to the N.C. Department of Commerce. All told, these jobs along with other support positions, will generate nearly $85 million in payroll impact to the region every year.

Google announces Durham cloud engineering hub

In a separate announcement Thursday, Google made public plans to create a hub in Durham for hundreds of engineers working on its Google Cloud products. 

The company said in a statement that it is already recruiting for the site and that it plans to employ 150 people by the end of the year. The company said it will aim to add 300 more employees next year and 500 more in 2023. The site will eventually support more than 1,000 jobs and be one of Google Cloud’s top engineering hubs.

The Google service uses cloud-based computing to help companies with a range of needs including managing databases, collaborating remotely and running business applications.

The company said it will begin by subleasing space in downtown Durham and is currently scouting other locations for a permanent home. Google also operates a data center in Lenoir and an office in Chapel Hill. Durham was one of several places around the country where Google is planning new locations. 

“Today is an exciting day for Google Cloud in North Carolina. We help businesses and organizations digitally transform, and to meet this challenge, we need the most talented team possible and the Triangle region has some of the best and brightest engineers in the world,” Google Vice President of Engineering Marian Croak said in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.