Lilly in no ruch to bloom

Eli Lilly Co. is moving carefully on its initial planning of an insulin manufacturing plant for Prince William and will begin design work next year, but there is no date set for when dirt will begin moving, its top official for the plant told the Prince William 66 Partnership on Thursday.

“The answer is, it’s not going to be for a little while,” said Patrick McGarrah, general manager for the plant that when completed will be a $425 million facility.

McGarrah was the keynote speaker for the western county business group at its annual meeting held this year at the Stonewall Golf Club at the Lake Manassas development west of Gainesville.

Luring Lilly to Prince William was a major coup for county and state officials earlier this year. It is the first U.S. manufacturing plant for Lilly outside its home base of Indiana. Virginia beat out North Carolina and South Carolina.

Lilly’s 600,000-square-foot facility will be built on 120 acres in the [email protected] William technology park — initially open by the end of 2004 and be fully operational in 2007, he said.

The plant will act as a “secondary manufacturing” site where insulin crystals made in bulk in Indiana and soon, made in Puerto Rico, will be shipped to be formulated into final dosages in vials or newer ways of delivery, he said.

Its 700 jobs have an average salary of $44,000 and is estimated to generate $20 million in tax revenues for the county over 10 years.

The product is 98 percent water with Insulin crystals mixed in.

McGarrah showed slides of inside equipment, featuring stainless steel and “portal holes” where insulin product enters the process, closed in by glass where human hands never touch the product, he said. A lot of processes are automated but require workers to oversee, and they have glove boxes to interact with the “clean room” environment.

“What we do is we try to be incredibly clean and incredibly pure,” he said.

The plant will have multiple shifts so that production is around the clock, he said

The Federal Drug Administration must certify the plant before its product is put on the market, and that can take a long time, he said.

The renderings of the plant publicized early on were conceptual and he “guaranteed” the final plant would not look exactly like them. It will be the company’s first manufacturing plant built in 25 years on a new site so they are taking their time, he said.

“My people are already complaining on where the cafeteria is and I don’t even have them on site yet,” he said.

There are no estimates yet on how much water and other utility requirements the plant will have, he said. The company is consulting with local utility suppliers, he said.

McGarrah has been flying between Indianapolis and the county since early summer. He will move his family to the area in December.

Lilly, with annual sales of $11 billion worldwide, became the first supplier of insulin for the treatment of diabetes in 1923 and was the first to introduce recombinant DNA human insulin and other treatment. Diabetes, a disease caused when a body cannot regulate its blood sugar levels, is expected to grow in cases around the world from 140 million to 300 million by 2025, according to the World Health Organization.

There are 16 million people in the U.S. with diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

McGarrah is a native of Hoosier, Ind. He got a degree in electrical engineering from Purdue University and has been with the company for 21 years with stints in Asia and Europe.

Why Prince William? He answered this common question by going down the list of quality of life, a strong educational system and proximity to a major urban center, but most importantly he said an area with smaller density of bio-research than places like Research Triangle area in North Carolina allows it to establish its own identity and expand their manufacturing talent pool.

And it went beyond the spreadsheet of pluses and minuses, he said.

“You sit outside and say how do I feel about this, does that number and those answers agree with what I feel in my heart … At the end of the day we looked at these and said Prince William County would serve us best for whatever we want,” he said to applause.

Area businesses will benefit from the thousands of jobs to build the plant and also from outsourcing needs like the cafeteria, he said.

The mix of workers is all over, he said. In the past it has been 70 percent hourly to 30 percent salary but now it starting to be a 50-50 split. They have not defined skill levels needed yet but he said “some experience beyond high school.”

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