Calling its Bristol plant “under-utilized,” pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Global Supply announced Wednesday it would “exit” the recently acquired plant by 2014, eliminating 16 logistics positions and possibly cutting as many as 130 manufacturing jobs.
Pfizer, which completed its purchase of the plant from King Pharmaceuticals in March, had been studying ways to integrate King’s manufacturing and supply branches into its existing business structure.
Rick Chambers, director of corporate communications for Pfizer, said when two companies join together, especially in the manufacturing industry, a lot of overlap can be expected.
“Right now, there is more capacity than there is work to do,” he said. “That was the focus of our global study.”
As a result of the study, Pfizer will exit Bristol’s manufacturing facility, which employs about 130, by 2014; and consolidate the Bristol logistics center, which employs about 16, into Pfizer’s existing Memphis distribution facility by 2012. This announcement does not impact the remaining commercial and support presence at the local plant, which numbers about 166 people. Employees were informed of the plan Wednesday morning.
The pharmaceutical products manufactured and packaged at the Bristol location, Levoxyl and Cytomel (thyroid therapy) and Oxecta (pain), will be transferred to other sites within the Pfizer network.
Chambers said the company will start looking at other strategic options for Bristol immediately, which would include finding another party to use the site.
“The challenge we face is a weak market for these type of operations,” he said. “But whatever the final option might be, our goal is to try to preserve as many (jobs) as possible.”
Pfizer offers an internal job posting system that all Bristol employees can participate in, and the company will offer support services and severance for those employees who are cut, he said.
Richard S. Venable, CEO of NETWORKS - Sullivan County Partnership, said the announcement wasn’t a huge shock, though it is certainly a big blow to the community.
“When Pfizer announced its purchase of King, we met with some company officials. Even though we never had the full schedule, they’ve been as forthcoming with me as they could be,” said Venable. “We have been talking all along with our economic development officials and the state about how we might utilize that facility should Pfizer leave.”
While nothing is written in stone, Venable said a few entrepreneurs have expressed interest — under certain circumstances — in the building.
“We’re trying to bridge some gaps and look at all the possibilities,” he said. “On their part, Pfizer seems to be very willing to talk to us, so we’re hopeful we’ll come up with something.”
Sullivan County Mayor Steve Godsey also wants to hit the ground running when Pfizer exits Bristol in 2014.
“We’ve begun work immediately trying to find out what their plans are with the facility,” Godsey said. “Once we find that out, we can move forward trying to secure another company to come in.”
He said the site is a great draw because it is “business-ready,” as in FDA-approved and licensed to produce pharmaceuticals. In his opinion, another medical or pharmaceutical company with expansion on its mind could take over very quickly.
Godsey cited the example of Indian pharmaceutical company Dr. Reddy’s, which took over the former Glaxo Smith Kline facility in Bristol in April 2011. GSK, he said, agreed to not vacate the facility fully until the takeover so the plant’s FDA licensure would remain intact.
“(An FDA-licensed facility) will carry a tremendous amount of weight,” Godsey said. “It’s very challenging to get facilities approved through the federal government. The FDA has to do a major investigation to approve the facility.”
A quick transition would help the Bristol area recover from some recent job losses, Venable said, and perhaps replace some of those lost in the Pfizer transition.
“We’ve had a couple of hits in Bristol recently, but we’ve been working with city officials to lessen that impact,” Venable said. “We do have a health-related cluster here that is very broad-reaching, from hospitals to drug manufacturers. We have a good base to recruit from, with employees trained to work in that environment. It makes us prime for other companies looking to expand.”
Pfizer also announced today it would complete its exit of a manufacturing site in St. Petersburg, Fla., which employs 25. The exit was announced in 2007 by King Pharmaceuticals prior to its acquisition by Pfizer. St. Petersburg presently manufactures Levoxyl, which is in the process of being transferred to Bristol where it will be manufactured until it is subsequently moved elsewhere in the PGS network. Pfizer expects to exit the St. Petersburg facility over the next 12 months.
The company will retain all eight plants and all 12 distribution centers that presently comprise Legacy King’s Alpharma Animal Health. Locations include Chicago Heights, Ill.; Willow Island, W.Va.; Eagle Grove, Iowa; Van Buren, Ark.; Salisbury, Md.; Longmont, Colo.; Shenzhou, China; and Yantai, China.
Pharmaceutical plants in Rochester, Mich., and Middleton, Wis., will continue to operate as normal. Each plant employs approximately 40 employees.