CLAYTON — Grifols, Johnston County’s largest employer, showed off its Clayton plant expansion on Tuesday, and company executives hinted that more investment here is likely.
The $370 million, 155,000-square-foot expansion will double Grifols’ blood-plasma production in Clayton, where the Spanish company employs 1,650. Grifols makes products from blood plasma that are administered to people with life-threatening illnesses such as hemophilia and Alzheimer’s.
The manufacturing operation unveiled Tuesday requires significantly less staff to operate, as it is nearly fully automated, said Sergi Roura, president of Grifols Therapeutics. Roura said the increased production capacity would require new hires going forward, but he declined to say how many and when.
Grifols is also building a logistics warehouse and has filed permits to build a processing plant on its Clayton campus, Roura said. The company expects to complete both projects by next year.
Roura said Johnston County is attractive to the company because of the availability of land and its proximity to researchers and universities. Earlier this month, the Johnston County Board of Commissioners pledged $1.08 million in property-tax rebates to make the Clayton site more attractive for two other potential projects – a $7.5 million warehouse and a $22.5 million administrative building that would add about 15 jobs.
Barcelona-based Grifols established a presence here when it acquired Triangle-based Talecris in 2010 for $3.4 billion. The company, which also has corporate offices in Research Triangle Park and plasma donor centers around the state, employs 2,300 people in North Carolina.
Gov. Pat McCrory spoke at Tuesday’s event and held a private meeting with company executives beforehand. Both McCrory and Grifols chief executive, Victor Grifols, hinted that the Spanish company is pursuing other projects in the state beyond those that would benefit from the county property-tax rebates.
McCrory said Grifols is considering both North Carolina and Berkeley, Calif., for one future expansion. Grifols has several facilities in California, including in Los Angeles.
“Working in this country is easier than home,” said Victor Grifols. “It is easy to come here, to invest here, and we do not consider the (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) our enemy.”
Grifols said the FDA’s logic is easy to follow compared to European regulators.
McCrory also talked about the importance of business-friendly governance. McCrory’s mother had Alzheimer’s, and he said Grifols’ priorities should be both to make money and find cures.
The improved efficiency of the new manufacturing operation in Clayton will not reduce the cost of medicines or treatment because manufacturing accounts for less than half of the total cost of production, Roura said. He said the raw materials are very expensive, which precludes the company from lowering treatment costs.
Clayton Mayor Jody McLeod was also on hand Tuesday, and he welcomed the company’s expansion in Clayton. “Clayton has grown because we are an open community, open to new ideas,” he said.