How North Carolina beat big competition to win a $350 million investment

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Called by the code-name “Project 625,” Grifols Therapeutics pitted North Carolina against the Lone Star State as it considered where to place its next-generation plasma facility.

More than 1,000 pages of just-disclosed communications and other documents showcase North Carolina’s persistence in closing the deal as well as the Texas competition.

A flurry of emails between North Carolina Department of Commerce officials from March up to the June announcement show the stakes – $351.6 million in investment in Johnston County, 300 jobs and average wages of more than $69,000.

But, while Grifols already had a serious presence in Clayton, the Spanish firm was evaluating its options outside of North Carolina, records show.

In addition to Clayton, Grifols considered two sites in San Marcos, Texas, where, in addition to tax exemptions and other benefits “in excess of $25 million,” the company thought it could get more than $30 million in incentives.

“Texas has offered an estimated $41 million to $56 million in incentives,” an application for the grant in North Carolina reads.

Texas, the home of Grifols’ only current plasma testing facilities in the U.S., has partnered with Grifols before, offering up incentives in 2009, maintaining “a great relationship with the company and … expend[ing] significant energy in the recruitment of this project,” a grant application notes. Additionally, the Port of Houston acts as “the primary exit point for Grifols’ plasma and finished products being shipped overseas.”

But North Carolina’s persistence paid off when, earlier this month, Grifols announced it would build its planned specialized blood plasma facility and logistics center at its existing Clayton campus. And, in exchange for the investment, the state approved a Job Development Investment Grant worth nearly $5.2 million over 12 years.

Grifols, which already has – with its affiliates – 1,735 employees in Clayton, will have to retain its current headcount and meet hiring and investment milestones to get the grant.

Records show virtually all of the heavy recruitment efforts by the North Carolina Department of Commerce happened as the pandemic was hitting the nation. It’s a situation that could make the company’s plans in Johnston County all the more critical.

Grifols Therapeutics is a subsidiary of Spanish firm Grifols S.A., (Nasdaq: GRFS) and supplies medicines derived from human plasma. Grifols is among the big pharmas playing a role in responding to the pandemic, working to develop a plasma-based antibody treatment for Covd-19 by collecting plasma from patients. The goal, according to the company, is to use the plasma to develop a therapy specific to Covid-19 – and it could happen at the Clayton campus.

Grifols is one of multiple companies to announce major investments in North Carolina despite economic uncertainty. In April, for example, Bandwidth announced a major expansion in Raleigh. The company said it planned to create 1,165 new jobs over eight years in the City of Oaks.

And just this month, Amazon announced plans for a new facility in Cary.

North Carolina and Texas have butted heads many times when it comes to economic development. One recent example is over Microsoft, which picked Morrisville over Houston for a 500-job project late last year.

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