County commissioners approve economic incentive grant for AAIPharma

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Photo courtesy New Hanover County.
Photo courtesy New Hanover County.

New Hanover County commissioners on Monday gave their approval for a $275,000 economic incentive grant in hopes of bringing dozens of new, high-paying jobs to the Port City.

In a four to one vote, commissioners authorized a grant for local pharmaceutical company AAIPharma that would appropriate $55,000 per year for five years. The agreement is contingent upon AAIPharma investing at least $20 million in capital improvement at its Wilmington facility and creating 50 new, full-time jobs.

Scott Satterfield, of Wilmington Business Development, said he and County Manager Chris Coudriet have been working on this incentive with the company for more than three years.

“This is important to New Hanover County because it contained three key components,” said Satterfield. “It’s a key existing industry here, it’s a pharmaceutical cluster and it’s a headquarters cluster.”

Coudriet said the grant would see a “200 percent return on investment with positive cash flows by year one,” over the next 10 years.

AAIPharma Chief Financial Officer Eric Evans said if the company were awarded the incentives, it would be used to create a new administration building and additional labs.

Commissioner Rob Zapple asked Evans if he saw expansion beyond the economic incentive.

“We do,” Evans said. “We see a great number of trained people in the UNCW system and we even hire people directly out of their chemistry department. It’s because of the talented, local workforce that I expect us to continue to grow here in Wilmington.”

But even with the incentive from New Hanover County and potentially from the City of Wilmington, AAIPharma could still decide to make the $20 million investment in one of its other facilities across the United States. AAIPharma has “active offers in other states to do this project,” including Missouri and Wisconsin.

When asked by Commissioner Woody White when the company would know where they were going to invest, Evans replied: “There was no exact time on the decision being made, but pretty promptly.”

Read related story: AAIPharma grant, vote to oppose offshore oil exploration on City Council’s agenda Tuesday

White cast the dissenting vote, and while he did commend AAIPharma for their work reconstructing the company since it filed for bankruptcy in May 2006, he said he could not support the incentive since it “was unfair for other businesses.”

“To me, it’s not an incentive,” White said. “To me it’s not something that this company is going to decide that because of the $500,000 we’re going to do this $20 million investment, especially when we hear about their expanding marketplaces.”

Chairman Jonathan Barfield and commissioner Beth Dawson lauded the pharmaceutical company for the opportunities it creates for the community.

“I look at this as a very positive return on investment, not just financially but also with the families that you will be employing,” Dawson said.

According to Evans, AAIPharma, 1726 N. 23rd St., specializes in manufacturing oral solid dose forms of prescription drugs for 42 of the top 50 drug companies worldwide.

The City of Wilmington will also consider awarding the pharmaceutical company an incentive grant of $225,000 based on the same criteria at Tuesday’s Wilmington City Council meeting.