Inside Amgen’s decision to build new plant, create hundreds of jobs in Holly Springs

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by Jim Shamp, NCBiotech Writer 

Amgen Inc., a biopharmaceutical company that pioneered the use of recombinant DNA technology four decades ago to become a global leader treating a wide range of diseases, is building a $550 million manufacturing facility in North Carolina.

Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday at the Governor’s Mansion in Raleigh that Amgen will build its newest manufacturing facility in Holly Springs, employing 355 people from 2025 through 2029, at an average wage of $119,510.

That announcement preceded a late-afternoon gathering at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center in Research Triangle Park, where civic and business leaders planned to celebrate the announcement.


Amgen’s decision to locate its newest manufacturing facility in North Carolina is a big-name addition to an unusually robust string of life sciences recruitments and expansions for North Carolina in the past year and a half, now topping $3 billion of corporate investment and 3,100 new high-paying jobs so far in 2021 alone. One of those came in March, when contract drug manufacturer FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies announced plans to invest $2 billion into a new plant, also in Holly Springs.

“World-class companies like Amgen are very selective when they evaluate business locations and they only choose places that provide the best support for their operations,” said Cooper. “Today’s decision proves once again that North Carolina remains a premier location for the most innovative biotech companies in the industry.”


Amgen, founded in 1980 in Thousand Oaks, Calif., is one of the biotechnology companies that led North Carolina business, academic and policy leaders to decide they needed to parlay the state’s academic research assets into commercial and social assets targeting the life sciences.

At the time, North Carolina’s traditional economic reliance on tobacco, textiles and furniture was beginning to wane. Investment in the life sciences provided a “hail Mary,” thanks to the state’s solid research universities, business environment and early commitment to corporate partnerships for workforce training and ongoing re-training.

The 1984 creation of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center led to a successful multi-billion-dollar, decades-long statewide commitment that has established North Carolina as a global life sciences leader.

Amgen has launched an array of game-changing biotherapeutics including well-known names such as Enbrel, Neulasta and Prolia, and says it will make biologic drug components at this new Holly Springs site. North Carolina has taken a leadership position in cell and gene therapies and workforce development in high-tech biopharmaceutical manufacturing.


“Undoubtedly, Amgen is a pioneer in the biotechnology industry and the selection of Holly Springs presents a phenomenal opportunity for Amgen to harness North Carolina’s strengths in biomanufacturing to drive its continued success,” said Laura Rowley, Ph.D., director of life science economic development for NCBiotech, who provided scientific and technical support to the project. “Beyond its contributions to improve patient outcomes, Amgen’s commitment to community will enable exciting partnerships and further elevate the impact of our local life sciences ecosystem.”

NCBiotech also provided $100,000 in funding support to local entities to help North Carolina land the project over an initial 15 competing markets and metro areas that the company ultimately narrowed to a contest between Holly Springs and Houston. Even though Houston offered $110 million in incentives, including property tax abatements and cash grants, the North Carolina town won as a result of “strategic, operational and financial considerations,” according to Amgen.

The incentive package also included a 12-year $11.6 million Job Development Investment Grant from the state, $3.9 million in utility support and $887,500 in community college workforce training support and incentives from Wake County and the Town of Holly Springs, bringing the local incentive total to $22.8 million. State Economist Mike Walden’s value model estimates Amgen’s impact on the state’s gross domestic product at $2.5 billion, and a net state revenue increase of $63.7 million over the 12 years of the grant period.

Partnering with NCBiotech, the North Carolina Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Partnership of N.C. on this project were the North Carolina General Assembly, the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the North Carolina Community College System, Duke Energy, Dominion Energy, North Carolina State University, North Carolina Central University, the Capital Area Workforce Development Board, Wake Technical Community College, the Town of Holly Springs, Wake County and Wake County Economic Development, a program of the Raleigh Chamber.

Amgen has constructed a couple of other, smaller biomanufacturing facilities in the past several years. In 2018 it started construction of a $160 million, 150-employee facility in West Greenwich, Rhode Island, incorporating what the company calls its “next-generation biomanufacturing” process using modular portable equipment, such as movable purification columns and 2,000-liter bioreactors, providing flexibility and efficiency.  That plant is similar to the company’s $200 million biologics production facility in Singapore, opened in 2014.

In late June, Amgen announced plans to build a $365 million drug packaging facility in New Albany, Ohio, where it will assemble, label and package vials and syringes for a variety of its medicines. That 270,000-square-foot plant is expected to employ 400 people.

“Amgen is investing in a technologically advanced drug substance plant in North Carolina to support the expected increase in demand for our medicines,” said Amgen Executive Vice President of Operations Esteban Santos. “Together with the previously announced advanced packaging plant in Ohio, we have committed to investing nearly $1 billion in new manufacturing capacity in the United States,”

“It’s exciting to see the industry where I spent much of my career become such a vital economic engine for our state,” said North Carolina Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders. “As the state’s new First in Talent strategic plan makes clear, developing and maintaining a skilled and diverse workforce will lead to more economic growth and great decisions like Amgen’s choice today.”

Amgen stock trades on the NASDAQ exchange as AMGN. The company employs more than 24,000 people and reported a 2020 revenue increase of 9% to a record $25.4 billion, with a presence in about 100 countries worldwide. In January 2021, it announced new environmental goals, including a plan to achieve net-zero carbon emissions (also known as “carbon neutrality”) by 2027, along with a 40% reduction in water used and a 75% reduction in waste disposed.

At the end of 2020, Amgen became a founding member of OneTen, a coalition of 35 of the world’s largest, best-known companies, that aims to hire one million Black Americans (with a specific focus on those without four-year college degrees) into good-paying, family-sustaining jobs over the next 10 years.

See Amgen’s history timeline here.

(C) N.C. Biotech Center

Original Source: WRAL TechWire